“You maniacs! You blew it up……damn you!…damn you all to hell!”
Sooo, for those of you currently enjoying the underside of a piece of granite, in London we’ve had 3 days of riots and mayhem, spurred on by the police shooting of a (career criminal) family man who did not shoot at police (although he was carrying an illegal firearm). Anywhoo, on Saturday a peaceful demonstration turned violent, and by Sunday there was outright carnage as people realized in a city of 7.5 million, they could get away with quite a lot before the cops could arrive. Hence Monday, where pockets of looters (not protesters, not demonstrators, straight up thieves) decided to steal and destroy as much as they could. Monkey and I sat transfixed to the screen as we watched a 140 year old business burn to the ground, while people stole laptops and 42 inch tvs. The cops seemed so stretched they couldn’t be at all effective, and when there were enough of them, they seemed unsure as to what to do first.
Let me make something very clear – I am a card carrying crunchy hippy who firmly believes that the raising up of the disenfranchised is the only way a society can progress in a positive manner. However, by about 8 pm last night I was screaming “JUST FUCKING SHOOT THEM” at the screen. These were not people storming the gates of Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street (the Symbols of Oppression), they were stealing from their neighbors. They were burning down their own homes. I bet if you got close enough to ask them a question, most of them couldn’t tell you the name of the man who was killed on Thursday and kicked all this off. And, they were using a Blackberry app to synchronize their violence. Um, I can’t afford a Blackberry. I have a second hand phone that I used to replace my other second hand phone that had all the keys finally fall off. Must be nice.
This seems to have been the mindset of the looters:
“I am angry about high unemployment, so I will destroy businesses and put people out of work!”
“I am angry about some services being taken away, so I will ruin the rest of them!”
“I am angry about 1 man being shot, so I will put thousands of people in mortal danger!”
“I am angry about the Police, so I will ruin my own community! That will show them!”
That is actually giving them far too much credit. As is seen in this series of tweets from looter @Itsbarbzbabes shows, they are actually morons concerned with nothing more than getting ‘free’ loot.
This morning I stayed close to twitter to see what would be done about all this, and found @riotcleanup , which was giving real time updates and when and where cleanup efforts were taking place. As it would be somewhat difficult to do with Baby, Monkey actually worked from home for the afternoon and I headed to where the most cleanup seemed to be required, Clapham Junction.
By the time I got there, about 500+ people were waiting behind a police barricade to work on the main street. One of the biggest buildings that burned last night was still smouldering and the fire brigade was hosing it down, while friendly but exhausted police chattered on walkie talkies. There was a good mix of families, hipsters, and locals. Everyone had their smart phone on and was checking the Beeb for any issues which may have arose while they were standing around.
We waited for a good while (I got there around 1.30 or so, and we didn’t start till 3 or so). Everyone was in great spirits – free food and drink was being offered, and people were happy to be helping. At one point, we saw some figures coming over the hill.
Could it be?
Why yes it is!
Everyone’s favorite blond mop top had arrived for his photo op.
The moment we recognized the towhead, a chorus of boos rose out of us and hit his crew like a wall of sound. He did his cutesy act of Hugh Grant style of harumphing about what he was going to do to make this all better, while we were standing there wondering when he was going to pick up a friggin’ broom. Hmmmrph, civic pride, rrrmmmppph, answers, mmmrrrrrrr, justice…
Finally, we got to start.
I would have to say my favorite part of the cleanup was when we were amassing down the sidestreet to get to the cleanup roads. A little old lady was huddled in her 2nd story window, watching us. We waved, and she tentatively gave us the thumbs up. We roared in approval at her, and he laughed and waved back until so many cameras were pointing at her that she covered her face in mock humility. I realized that just 18 hours earlier she had sat in the same spot, watching thugs and gangs terrorize her neighborhood. Now, she was watching a gang of broom wielding lunatics on a cleaning spree.
The cleanup itself was pretty simple. You have a broom, gloves, and bags…use them. Wandsworth borough trucks did a great job following us and grabbing our bags, etc. Here are a few pics from the carnage…
We got as far as the main street when we were turned back – forensics was still working, and it would be another four hours or so before we could do another sweep. As I was talking to the cop who was giving the information out, he said,
I honestly scoffed in his face. I didn’t mean to, I was just gobsmacked. I sputtered, “No, don’t thank me, thank you. You are the one who has been here for the last few days.”
“Well,” he replied, “I have to be here. You are here for nothing.”
“I’ve seen the cuts in pay you guys are dealing with, I know you aren’t getting much more than me”, I scoffed, before my eyes watered over and I had to excuse myself. Here is a man who was on the scene for more than likely the last 12 hours, and would be there another 12 or so (depending on whether their is any idiocy going on right now). And he was thanking me? I couldn’t handle that. I couldn’t process that kind of self-sacrifice. I got on the train, headed home, and after a VERY hot shower, hugged my baby.
Tomorrow baby permitting we’ll head back to CJ to pass out bags and help where we can. This isn’t my country by birth, but it is my home and the home of my husband and son. I will be damned if I let some no account jackasses who used the death of a man for their own twisted gain to get the best of my city. And why? Because…