Tuesday 9 August 2011

London Riots

Unless you've been in a hole for the past few days you have probably read about the riots kicking off in areas of London. For the first two days it was largely limited to the north London borough of Haringey, but last night it spread south and west, and to cities elsewhere in the country. Late last night, we heard Ealing got it. There were rumours that Hounslow was about to erupt, but apart from some knob burning a moped in the Asda car park, our borough stayed quiet and peaceful (yes, that was me calling for Hounslow to show how "chilled and friendly" we were).

But it was clear that Ealing needed some help. The pictures on the BBC show similar situations around the capital. The Metro had an unusually thorough coverage of the events.

Via Twitter, and the hashtags #cleanupealing and #ealingcleanup, a plan was formed at around 2am this morning. We met at 10am at the horse statue (that may have been my suggestion), and there were representatives from Ealing Council, including Cllr Keith Townsend:

It was heartening to see how many people showed up to help - we estimate nearly 100 people assembled first thing:

It turned out most of Ealing Broadway and Haven Green was still a crime scene, so we were asked if we could walk along to West Ealing and see if any of the small business owners needed any help. Unfortunately, the seriously hit shops were having to wait for SOCO to get there, and the less affected shops had already cleaned up by the time we arrived. I hope our presence was at least a boost to those poor people whose livelihoods are in tatters today.

Paul and I stopped in and chatted to the guys at Ouch, who'd had their window smashed. They were lucky, some of the lads were in yesterday and drove the van up in front of the shop front to prevent looting. A tattoo parlour is an unusual choice - most of the businesses hit were small electrical goods, jewellers and pawnbrokers. Pure greed, nothing more.

By 11:15am we had nothing further to do. Maybe others found as crime scenes were opened up that they were able to help. Paul and I left once some of the volunteers started demanding a physical presence to go up against the rioters. Having spoken to some of the business owners today, I do not believe any of them would wish us to form a human shield around their shops. And I'm not happy with vigilantism in any form. If further shops get hit I will help to clean up, but I am no good to them with my head caved in.

There are knee-jerk reactions all around, and the most distressing for me are that, a) all teenagers are evil incarnate, and b) this is all the fault of teachers. I have seen too many tweets, comments and updates saying that this is a symptom of an education system that puts kids down and tells them they're worthless. I wholly reject that assertion. The overwhelming majority of young people in London were not rioting and looting last night. And teachers are not bloody miracle-workers. I see my students for four hours per week - that is not long enough to rescue them, nor is it long enough to cause the seriously huge chips the rioters have on their shoulders. There is audio on BBC News 24 from two girls who are hoping there'll be more riots, and that it's fine because they're going after the rich people.

Yes, all these rich people, who have built up their family business, and whose livelihood depends on their stock turnover. These rich people who work as shop assistants in shops that were looted - don't you just hate the massive salaries of shop staff? And what about these loaded people who live in luxury one-bed flats above shops, who have now lost absolutely everything they own as it's been burnt out to a hollow shell? When this counts as "rich people" who "deserve it", then it is clear that there is a particularly fucked up attitude that no teacher can overcome.

I am hopeful that none of my kids were involved. I genuinely believe that I teach lovely young men and women, who have the support of family, friends and their community. If this turns out not to be the case, then I will be so utterly disappointed; and of course, any student of mine who has been involved will find the wrath of the criminal justice system the least of their worries once I get hold of them.

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