Sunday, August 7, 2011
We woke this morning, after a perfectly peaceful and uneventful night's sleep, to the news that rioting broke out in the northern London neighborhood of Tottenham last night. It's very strange to turn on the news and see that something so eventful happened nearby, while we were completely unaware.
The rioting grew out of a protest in front of a police station, prompted by the police shooting of an armed man on Thursday. The man fired back at police, and apparently hit one officer, before being shot himself. People in the largely minority community are upset and apparently there's a long history of mistrust in the police.
With last night's protest as a launching point, gangs of youths then smashed and looted stores on the main street through Tottenham and at a nearby mall, and set several large buildings ablaze. It's just like any number of similar situations in the U.S. -- like Rodney King, on a smaller scale.
I've never understood looting as an expression of anger, because the only people it hurts are other defenseless residents of the community. In this case, I suspect the perpetrators were really just plain old thieves, taking advantage of the protest to burn and pillage. People have been burned out of their homes, and according to the news the authorities fear there could be more violence tonight.
Tottenham is about ten miles from us by car, so it's nowhere nearby, and in fact we couldn't see any smoke or other evidence of the unrest from our windows.
I was surprised by these developments. Dave and I have marveled at the relative lack of violent crime in news coverage here. These riots are a reminder that London faces some of the same underlying tensions as cities back home.
(Photo: The only photo I've taken that alludes to any criminal activity. Love those meerkats!)