London is entering a third night of rioting that began Saturday after a peaceful protest against police brutality turned violent. The gathering was in response to the fatal police shooting of a 29-year-old black male in Tottenham, one of the city’s working class communities of color.
There are conflicting stories of the victim, Mark Duggan, whose death sparked the unrest. Some media coverage make Duggan out to be a hardened north London gang member while other stories paint a picture of a loving family man who would never seek confrontation.
Tottenham is home to an ethnically mixed population including Asians and North Africans, as well as people of Middle Eastern and Caribbean backgrounds. It’s an area that has been unfairly hit by cutbacks in government services, reports the LA Times.
The New York Times reported that the initial rioters on Saturday that began in Tottenham were mostly young black males.
The riot escalated into a pitched battle between lines of riot police officers, some on horses, and hundreds of mostly young black men, in small gangs of four or five, many with hooded sweatshirts pulled over their heads and bandannas over their faces. The young men arrived in clumps, on foot, by bicycle or on mopeds. Tottenham is an area of mostly poor minorities; a significant portion of the population is black. “How many black people have to die around here?” asked one of the youths, referring to Mr. Duggan. He gave his name as Pablo.
However three days later, the rebellion now includes youth of all colors upset over unemployment rates and government cutbacks and has spread through to other poor districts in London. One of the most recent riot areas include Hackney, a partly gentrified eastern neighborhood, where according to the Times, “groups of hooded youths confronted squads of riot police officers on the main street, smashing store windows and attacking police cars and double-decker buses.”
Duggan’s brother, Shaun Hall, said he understood the anger over unemployment and government cutbacks, but called for an end to the violence. “I know people are frustrated; they’re angry out there at the moment. But I would say please try and hold it down. Please don’t make this about my brother’s life.”
The violence underscores Europe’s massive economic crisis and London’s harsh response to it. Undoubtedly, many comparions are being drawn to the 2005 French unrest, in which thousands of young people of color in the country’s impoverished suburbs rebelled against police violence and caught international attention.