Tag Archives: riots

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.

What a week.

Where to start? The obvious, I suppose, is the gangs of disaffected youths running around smashing the place up. It would be pithy and probably very uninformed of me to observe that when super-rich people get away with apparently anything and then, in order to pay for these people’s cock-ups, the government slashes funding to vital services and charities and police, there may be some ill-feeling. Even so, burning things and smashing things up indiscriminately achieves little (apart from a free 42″ TV, a natty new pair of trainers, and ooh, maybe 40 iPhones and wall-to-wall media coverage) and does way more harm than good. If they’d just gone for ATOS centres and JobCentres instead of blameless people… For the benefit of the tape, I am not in any way recommending criminal behaviour with that remark.

For my part, I wonder how the elderly, disabled and deaf are doing – elderly and disabled people who rely on carers not being afraid to come out, who rely on others to bring shopping / do basic tasks, and deaf people who can’t hear the windows breaking or roar of fire engines coming up the street. All I know is, I’m glad I no longer live anywhere near a city centre, I’ve had good restful nights of sleep out here in the sticks, far removed from any trouble, and safe in the knowledge that my father owns an air pistol and I know where it is. However, many others, disabled or otherwise, aren’t so lucky.

I hope all this madness settles down soon, because for all that it gets a lot of attention and Cameron must surely have to rethink his Big Society / cutting police / cutting community projects / all his stupid ideas, the people who will suffer most in all of this will be those who are the most vulnerable. That’s the way it usually goes, hence “vulnerable”.

In other news, HSBC have responded formally to my complaint. £15. They’ve credited my account with £15. That’s how much all that stress and aggravation was worth to them. £15. And they don’t know it yet, but they actually gave me even more ammunition in the letter. £15. £15. Fifteen bloody pounds. Why not just smack me in the face with a gauntlet and throw it on the floor? Senior Service Quality Team at HSBC, you’ll be hearing from me again soon. £15! Someone’s going to regret that. £15. £15…