Sunday, April 15, 2012


Remember when rioting broke out across London last August? If you were like me, watching shop windows being smashed and blocks of buildings burning on television, you probably said something like, "What are those people thinking?"

Thanks to a study called "Reading the Riots" by the London School of Economics and The Guardian newspaper, we now have some idea. These are comments made by rioters, printed in last month's issue of Harper's magazine.
"When I went outside for the first time, I could feel like, that the air was, it wasn't how it normally was, it was like an unspoken kind of feeling just floating around. It actually made me feel really strong."

"There weren't no gangs. I didn't know no one there, but we all got together that day, the Asians, the blacks, the whites. It felt like we were like one big gang. Normally we don't get along. But we weren't fighting each other; we were fighting the police. What I really noticed that day was that we had control. It felt great."

"Those fucking shops, like, I've given them a hundred CVs, not one job. That's why I left my house. Why haven't I even got an interview? I feel like I haven't been given the same opportunities as other people have. At the end of the day, yeah, maybe I have got a bit of hate in my heart."

"They was just of all ages, from fourteen, fifteen to big adults. You're in shock, really, because everyone was just starting to smash out the windows of every shop around them. I would never have, like, smashed a window personally myself, but because it was there I just saw it as an opportunity. I just thought about the clothes that I saw that normally I'd have to spend £30, £40 on. So I entered the shop."

"We smashed the police station at the bottom of Park Road, and for me that was -- I'll never forget that, never forget that. I've been locked up in that station myself. I've been arrested and taken in there and knuckled and all of that. And when everyone was putting their windows in I didn't feel any inclination to stop them. Do you know what I mean?"

"Even though I'm studying law, I still felt it was right to do what I did. I was happy. I was overjoyed. I was like, 'Yes, you gonna get taught a fucking lesson now.' Because I've so many friends that have got beaten up by police officers. I set, I think it was a Lotus, one of them cars on fire."

(Photo: Boxes set out for recycling on Portobello Road.)


  1. I completely understand this mentality - the power behind it- Particularly in a society that tends to damp down expression.
    Sometimes when I am in England I feel like screaming through the streets in a most impolite manner...Or jumping a queue , of course I do not, but there is an urge...

  2. I am so darn middle class - I read these things & think, well yeah I understand the feeling, but but but - anarchy? Yikes! I'm afraid that if we ever have revolution I'll be cringing in the corner worrying about breaking the rules!

  3. Linda Sue: Yeah, I thought this was interesting because it shows the rioters' hatred & fear of police, their frustration over lack of jobs, and how powerful they felt being associated with something "bigger" -- a movement.

    Bug: I'm sure I'd be cringing with you. Rioting is definitely not my style!

  4. Steve. i love the way you try to look beyond, behind, to get to the core of what happens, to understand, to not blind yourself with easy judgments. Thank you for posting this. Rioting is not my style either, and yet when I read these comments, i completely understand. I hope someone can hear them who has the power and the inclination to engage them in the kind of social commerce that let's them know they, too, are valued and have something to offer. As pie in the sky as that sounds, it is the only thing that will prevent his happening again.

  5. I hope someone hears, too, Angella. After all, that's partly why they rioted -- to demand to be noticed.