Looking through the old newspapers in the light of the current news of rioting in the streets of London, it wasn’t hard to find that London has regularly been a centre of this kind of violence. Historically, people the world over use rioting to get their point across or to let off steam. Often there were clear causes for the violence such as politics, unemployment or religious or racial differences. In fact, there are so many articles I could start a new blog entitled ‘Riots of the World’. Sometimes they are peaceful and organised demonstrations that get out of hand, but sometimes people like to get out and have a shout with their friends and throw things at the authorities just for the hell of it.
In 1886 there were riots in the West End of London that were blamed on unemployment. Provisions were taken out of the shops and kicked into the streets. Police state they ‘were taken by surprise’.
The next day shops in the expected path of the riot were closed up and the police weren’t going to be taken by surprise as they were hanging out at the pub with the ‘roughs’, waiting for the riot to get going. (http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62013803)
I wonder if looting was such a problem in 1886. There were no flat screen TV’s to carry home triumphantly after all. It is no fun looting the local traders when you wont be able to get food for the family in the next few days.
I wonder what the real reason for the current riots is. I know it started because of the unfortunate shooting of a man by police but, days later, I bet these rioters don’t care less about that and are just using it as an excuse to get out of the house and go crazy.
I think that these days, after the passion of the first day wears off, riots and looting are perpetuated by the lowest common denominator of society. Those people who sit at home and feel angry about others being more successful than they are but don’t bother to do anything to change their own situation. They see the rioting on TV or social media and they see this as their chance to deal out a bit of payback on society, so out they go ready to fight.
I know that riots are caused by underlying tensions coming to the surface but I think that there is a good chance that the current underlying cause is boredom.
In the Birmingham slums in 1950, hundreds of people fought in the street with anything that came to hand. Five people ended up in hospital and many were injured. The incident was reported in some media as a race riot. At the time the police refuted this and stated that those involved were from white families known to police. Not a race riot, just ferals fighting in the street after a few too many drinks. (http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50203931)
The areas where the current riots have started have a diverse ethnic mix and high unemployment. I bet that the people who are involved are a mix of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. Racial tensions and poverty will be invoked as a cause for this ongoing violence but I think this kind of thing is a true leveler. The most feral people will be out there setting fires and throwing bottles regardless of where they are from, the color of their skin or their financial situation.