I am still slightly in shock this morning after a major riot all around where I live last night. After getting off the train at Clapham Junction and walking to the exit I was met by a gang of over 100 masked, hooded and armed protesters. They raged through both exits, and to get out of the way decided to get out via St Johns Road only to be met by many more rioters. To my horror they were smashing up Debenhams and the shops all the way up to Northcote Road. The Police had created a barrier to stop them moving towards the police station, but there was no control.
It felt like extreme suppressed anger had just erupted, loads of people with hoodies were pouring into the area from the Winstanley Estate behind where I live and other areas of Battersea using Falcon Road as a route to join in the event. As I watched it seemed that this was organised – many were using twitter and texting on their mobile phones as they walked along.
What ever else you hear – there was a strong sense of anger. I talked to one bystander in shock who like me was trying to get out of the riot – who said they were from the Winstanley Estate who said that services had been cut, most of the youth were unemployed and had no hope, and that this was bound to happen as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and are marginalised.
It is unsurprising then that the target of this anger was consumption and consumerism – the shops were targeted. Why? Because I think they have come to express a false understanding of freedom – the freedom to consume, and when you don’t have work or a future – consumption is one of the immediate impacts.
This is a bit of a wake up call. I had no doubts that the government will point out the thugs and other negative stereotypes in the game of blame – and I am sure there will be a minority number people who have joined in the violence – but this does not undermine the strong sense of anger by the many younger people who are excluded from work, hope and future – and last night in a frightening and deeply upsetting expression of anger erupted into the visible from the suppressed.
This makes the point about a fair approach to debt reduction that does not overly punish the poor and the young. In clapham Junction there is a huge and visible difference between the Council Estates and the opulent of those living ‘twix the commons’. It is well known that violence will aways erupt when the rich get richer and poor get poorer and the fault lines between these communities become the points of tension – and these are the places that were broken into last night..
So I join in the prayers of the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has called us pray for peace and reconciliation and a just approach to our economic situation that does not overly discriminate and impact on the poor rather than the rich!