Morons, Riots and Amnesia

In 1981 I was a pupil at an inner London comprehensive school. Around 75% of my classmates were black, and the remaining quarter were mostly white, Indian or Pakistani. Many of my classmates had been stopped and searched by the police under the infamous SUS laws, under which the police merely had to believe that a person was acting suspiciously. Many more of their fathers, elder brothers and uncles had been stopped and searched. Many of these had been racially abused, falsely arrested and/or beaten up. The police were a law unto themselves. Complaints about police behaviour were handled by… well, the police of course. And the mass media still lived in a complacent bubble dating from an earlier age where the police were never corrupt, racist or unnecessarily violent. The worst police behaviour came from a gang called the Special Patrol Group (SPG), who regularly beat up (and sometimes killed) people without fear of punishment.

The London of 1981 was far less racially mixed than it is today – black and Asian people were concentrated into certain areas, and white estates were no-go areas for them. The far-right fascist National Front (NF) would march through racially mixed areas as a provocation, and in any resulting violence, the police always took the side of the NF.
It was no surprise to me or my friends, but a huge shock to most of the UK, isolated from the black inner city, when the Brixton riot erupted in April 1981. Brixton had been subjected to “Operation Swamp”, during which the number of stop-and-searches rocketed. Ostensibly this was an attack on crime; in reality it was the invasion of Brixton by a racist, violent gang. Of the many stories circulating at the time, a minor one stays with me for some reason: during a raid on a black house, the police smashed a guitar and a TV set, claiming they were looking for drugs inside. The people of Brixton (and other black areas around the country) were being deliberately wound up into a rage, which became all the more consuming for lack of any means of dealing with it. There were few black or Asian people in the police force or media, and even the most well-meaning news outlets had no idea what was going on. When Brixton exploded, so did other areas of London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and other cities. A few blocks of Brixton became a police-free zone for three days, defended at “the front line” on Railton Road. At the front line, people defended the area. Inside was a carnival, celebrating freedom – a police state had been temporarily liberated. Some of my older friends travelled to Brixton to witness or join the festival. People of all races partied and battled the police together; despite propaganda at the time, this was no race riot – it was a community uniting against the police. Yes, there was mindless looting and burning, despite the efforts of older community leaders. Once all respect for law and order has collapsed, this can only be inevitable.
After the dust had settled, the government response to the riots was very British and remarkably level-headed. An inquiry was called under the leadership of Lord Scarman, and later the same year, the results were delivered. Scarman found clear evidence that the police were using stop-and-search powers indiscriminately against black people. The law was changed in 1984, putting new controls on police behaviour, as a direct consequence of the Brixton riots.
Other incidents, most notably the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence (which the police barely bothered to investigate) changed the public and media perception of the police, and things slowly changed for the better as scrutiny and control improved. By the late-1990s, the street confrontations of the 80s seemed to have faded into history.
Then came 9/11. One of the many after-effects of those attacks (although Britain at that stage had never been under threat) was a massive increase in stop-and-search against young men, primarily black and Asian (though affecting whites as well). Within months, the friendly new face of the police had morphed back into something resembling that of the 1980s. I noticed an increase in sirens – and since there was no terrorist threat until after the Iraq invasion, I wondered what all those police were doing with their new-found anti-terrorist powers. The answer: they were stopping and searching hundreds of thousands of young men. In all this time, not a single terrorist suspect has been caught using stop and search. But the result has been an increased hatred for the police among young Londoners. Stop and search is often accompanied with verbal abuse and heavy-handed treatment. The old, violent SPG was dissolved in the 80s, but its successor, the Territorial Support Group (TSG) was becoming known for the same tactics.
Incident after incident has come and gone in the past decade; hundreds of people have died at the hands of the police, and countless thousands have been verbally, racially and physically abused. A young relative of mine was assaulted twice by the police: once slapped across the face, the second time thrown against the side of a van. In neither case was he accused, formally cautioned or arrested for anything. To middle-class Britain, these are just unlinked, isolated events. To people in the inner city, the reported incidents are the tip of the iceberg. Over 300,000 black and Asian people were stopped and searched in the UK during the 2008/09 reporting year. At what point does normal policing activity tip over into the directed acts of a police state? I’d guess it lies at somewhere much less than 300,000 stop-and-searches in a single year.
Deaths at the hands of police come and go, in their hundreds, usually with little mention, but one death did receive media attention: the curious “self-stabbing” of reggae star Smiley Culture in March (which I blogged at the time) led to a march in London, and the uniting of various family campaigns, each one having been previously isolated. The death of such a high-profile black man led to a massive increase in community anger. If they could get away with this, what couldn’t they get away with?
And then last Thursday, Mark Duggan was shot dead. The Metropolitan Police immediately reported that there had been an “exchange of fire”. Yesterday, this was revealed to be untrue – not for the first time, the police had leaked a false story, only to have it overturned days later. Only two shots had been fired, both by police officers. On Saturday, a peaceful protest march was held; peaceful, that is, until a 16 year old girl who confronted police was attacked with batons and riot shields. That was the trigger for everything that followed.
Incidentally, look at how effectively the police lie-machine works. Below are tweets from two police officers. I’ve no doubt that these individuals genuinely believed what they were tweeting – but they were part of an effective propaganda operation that is put into action every time the police kill somebody.
For those that point out the shooting of Duggan or the attack on the girl are no excuse for the destruction that followed: please stop stating the obvious. Everybody realises this, especially the people who live in those areas. The vandals, looters and muggers must be caught and face justice – that goes without saying. But Londoners also know the rage that exists against the police, on a huge scale. It’s inevitable that mindless morons will take advantage of chaos and begin looting and burning. It happens whenever a riot starts, for whatever reason. It’s a symptom of the situation, not a cause.
I’ve been deeply disappointed with the number of suburban progressives and middle-class Londoners who have swallowed the media spin completely. The looting is a side-product of a much bigger story, the descent of post-9/11 Britain into a form of police state, at least for its poorer populations. Last week’s shooting wasn’t the reason for the uprising. It was simply the last straw. Now we have to defend against our moron government giving police even more leeway to “restore peace” in London. Stop-and-search, coupled with abusive policing, got us here, as it did in 1981. Don’t let them justify even more of the same by the use of fear tactics.

18 thoughts on “Morons, Riots and Amnesia”

  1. Very poor and a crap attempt at pulling the race card, the blog title could not be more appropriate. As the blogger points out 75% of his classmates were black, why be surprised that many of his classmates were stopped and searched especially if the local demographic is mainly black. As the Guardian article points out 54% of the black population live in London so why be surprised, it's not racist, it's a mathematical certainty.

    Totally regardless of race, if stop & search results in taking one knife, a gun, exposes a shoplifter, finds drugs and takes them off the street then that's a result. After all if you have absolutely nothing to hide what's the problem. Admittedly the probability of stop & search foiling a terrorist plot is slim but it's a probability all the same. Ask any victim or bereaved family member who's lives have been ruined, put it to vote with the general law abiding public I'm pretty sure you can predict the answer.

    Gun control – People forget why they were banned in the UK. On the 13 March 1996 Thomas Hamilton walked into Dunblane and shot dead fifteen 5 – 6 year old kids and one teacher. Guns themselves aren't the problem, it's when they fall into the wrong hands. If you are thick enough to carry an illegal weapon and pose a risk to the general public or an armed police officer then what do you expect, harsh language, a police caution? Anything that happened up to that point and immediately after is irrelevant, I'm sure the author of this shite blog would feel very different if a white bloke walked into his old school, with a banned weapon and shot a load of his class mates……who happen to 75% black.

    I would add I know fuck all about anything, some people herd to the left, some to the right………..I don't give a shit but one thing I do know is right from wrong, it seems to me people have lost sight of that…

  2. lol, deluded, pathetic, whimpering, racist, rubbish!!! measured fine writing?!?!? These riots have FUCK ALL to do with race, this is the result of consecutive governments, Labour and Conservative giving wasters a way of life!!You quote figures of 300,000 black and asian people being stop and searched, can you qualify these figures? Show me where these statistics appear! In fact that doesn't matter, can you tell me how many white people were searched? No, of course not, because you aren't looking for that are you? Remember Keith Blakelock? Beheaded and mutilated, after turning up for his average paid job, you think he was on a racist crusade that morning when he kissed his missus goodbye and went off to do his JOB?
    You are the lowest of the low, excusing the inexcusable, Pottie calls you courageous? He/she is as deluded as you are, pathetic, I was trying to think of other adjectives without swearing, but pathetic just about sums you up. Go away, if you don't like things the way they are just sod off to somewhere you will be happy!! No? not an option? Oh why not? Ohhhh cos the rest of the countries in the world wouldn't have you, because you have nothing to offer them, or your making too much money off my taxes, which is it?

  3. Lol, ooh missed that bit, the SPG "regularly beat up (And sometimes killed) people"…………..LMAO are you insane?!?!?!!??!? the SPG were a lot of things, none of them particularly nice, but you accuse them of being State Sponsored Murderers?!?!?!?! Discuss.

  4. Thanks for this blog post, it's factual and insightful. None of this information is made available in the Netherlands, but that is no surprise. Also the British demonstrations against the cuts were hardly covered. Because we have our own explosive situation at the moment (Wilders, islamophobia, racism, cuts), and we don't want the Dutch to get the 'wrong' ideas.
    The blame game and fingerpointing on our public fora is a well directed and controlled smokescreen in which historical facts & statistics and context are shunned.

  5. Just to deal with a couple of points:

    omgwtf says my schoolmates were targeted because they were black. Yes, that's what I said. You seem to think you're disagreeing with me?

    BrummieBoy asked where I got the 300,000 figure. Well, you see how the text is highlighted? That's called a link. Click it.

    For an example of an SPG killing, Google "blair peach". For a TSG killing Google "ian tomlinson".

  6. 'Man and womenkind, sitting (still rather well-fed) in their (stil rather well-heated) rooms, feel a considerable tenderness toward themsellves. Upperdog, mostly white, mankind, that is. And throughout its bloody history, mankind has labelled as fanatics, agitators, and troublemakers all those who have felt less tender and rosy about the world.' (Hans Koning, writer & journalist)

  7. UNITED RACES and The Holy Book of Racial Government.

    ". . . All Iranian women are ugly, dark haired, dirty Arabs when compared to our own pure blood, blonde haired, blue or pale eyed, White Aryan women of Northern Europe."
    Say the White Supremacist Racists."

    From London to The Shires to Britain to Europe to The World.


    This is the most powerful religio-political movement for more than 3500 years, possibly.


  8. These riots are not race related. I cannot imagine why you would want them to be.

    Mark Duggan's death and the mismanagement of the aftermath was the direct cause of the initial Tottenham unrest and, admittedly without access to the full facts, I do blame the police for that.

    Nothing which has happened subsequently has had any relevance to that incident.

    What we are seeing on the streets is criminals stealing and nothing more.

  9. Now we have to defend against our moron government giving police even more leeway to "restore peace"

    This is the only error in this post.

    It is not 'our' government or even 'our moron government'. This is the fundamental problem with the thinking about these problems.

    If the police really were 'our police' they would never do any of the bad things they are doing. Think about it; no other service that you pay for goes out of its way to harass even a single person; in fact, it is the complete opposite.

    The police need to be run as a service, in the same way that Apple computer is run. They exist only for a single purpose, to do something very very well, and that is serve their customer's needs.

    The police are not at fault here. They are doing what they are told to do by their clients; the State. You are not the State, in case it hasn't dawned on you.

    We need police. The question is, what kind of police, who should pay for them and own them. Clearly the way the police work now is not fit for purpose, as far as the public is concerned. That is why, for many years, they have smashed guitars 'looking for drugs'. Real police would never do that, because that is not what the customer's want. The customers want their property protected and their bodies protected, and that is all. Anything else the police do is surplus to those basic needs.

    People in the UK, who are intelligent and who have first hand experience of all of this like you do, offer very important insights in to what is really going on at the bottom rung. What is always missing however, is any sort of big picture insight into the nature of the State. Its why you use phrases like 'our government' and why other call for 'more democracy' and other deluded nonsense.

    Now we hear that the British way of life is to be whittled away even further, with new powers to control the internets and social networking.

    Apple would never do that.

    Free people who are able to run their own affairs improve constantly, they do not actively try and destroy the thing they are trying to protect.

    Voluntarism is frowned upon because the State doesn't want to lose the deep control it has over the minds of the sheeple. Thats why the council tried to stop people cleaning up because of 'health and safety'. Its why the police discourage vigilantes from protecting their property.

    Things are going to get much worse unless the people with some sense scratch the surface and look past the fairy tales they have been spoon fed.

    And this is just the beginning. Wait till hyperinflation drives the price of food off the charts.

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  11. The people of Brixton (and other black areas around the country) were being deliberately wound up into a rage, Absolutely right. It’s always a mistake the police make, has anybody noticed.

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