News / 13 August, 2011

What caused the Hackney riots? Local residents speak out

“These teenagers have got nothing better to do… they think that they’re well hard”

Ena Miller talks to Hackney residents about the riots

Ena Miller talks to Hackney residents about the riots

What were the catalysts and causes for the riots in Hackney earlier this week?

Ena Miller hears from local residents about what they think are the causes of the recent disturbances.

“These teenagers have got nothing better to do… they think that they’re well hard.”

“All these analyses, everyone’s asking why, why, why?”

Leave your thoughts below.


What caused the Hackney riots? A local teacher speaks out

Hackney riots: why here? why now?

Hackney riots: taking stock

Boris Johnson says London riots “are not a simple issue”

The militarisation of the riots would be a deadly mistake, says Hackney MP Diane Abbott

How riots start, and how they can be stopped: Edward Glaeser (external site)

Hackney rioters directly target police

/ 13 August, 2011
  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    On the one hand, we have a society where young people see their opportunities shrinking – not only due to the credit-crunch and subsequent recession, but also as a result of factors such as the cost of housing spiralling upwards during the economic boom, and utility companies being allowed to increase fuel bills far beyond the rate of inflation. This has affected not only the very poorest in our society (as one would expect, and who are struggling more than ever as a result), but even those on middle incomes, who are having to pay an increased percentage of their salaries on the basics, and whose children have a future of heavy debt and hardship to look forward to for the first time since the 1930s.

    On the other hand, there’s been an unwillingness on the part of the authorities to deal with, or even acknowledge, the predatory role of a criminal hardcore in our very poorest neighbourhoods – “Out of sight, out of mind” would appear to have been the unofficial motto of the politicians – whilst only too happy to engage in social experiments for which we’re now paying.

    Why on earth should anyone have to live in constant fear of crime, just because they’re on a low income? What kind of role models do the kids on the estates get as a result? And what kind of policing emerges, when young people living in certain areas are commonly treated as potential criminals and troublemakers?

    Add to this mix a mass culture of consumerism presented as an unqualified good, and of people in high places being seen to get off lightly with corrupt practices, and it’s clear to see that events like the ones we’ve just witnessed were bound to happen, in some form.

    Not condoning acts of mass criminality (far from it) – simply placing them in some kind of meaningful context.

  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    Here’s another valid (and very straight-talking) perspective:

  • Hilary Murdoch

    Very interesting video, interview with ex-gang member

    And also interesting perspective from a young woman working with youths in London

  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    Thanks, Hilary.

    When one listens to the views of Sheldon Thomas on the family and compares them to those of, say, Harriet Harman, it’s easy to see the sources of social breakdown and the underclass subculture. And when Sheldon talks about the lack of opportunities that many young people face, and the direct and immediate effects of government spending cuts, one has to wonder whether David Cameron is even aware of the kind of lives that many people in Britain live.

    The traditional ‘left/right’ slanging match isn’t going to solve anything – it’s time for some fresh perspectives.

  • Michaela Young

    I thought the interviews with hackney residents were interesting. It’s true that exactly the same thing happened in 1981 and the Brixton riots. The police consistently fail to learn and change for the better. I think we need a completely different kind of police force: policemen and women should come from the area they are policing. That way they would care more about their environment (because they live in it) and they would know more of the residents. Most importantly they should get off their fat arses and out of their cars and start patrolling the area on foot. They should look fit: not overweight and unable to run more than a few yards. If the area is mostly ethnic then the people who police it should be mostly ethnic. Lastly, if there is a riot then the police should attempt to bring it under control and remove rioters from the area, not stand in a line and watch it happen.

  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    Michaela, that’s the kind of approach which Bill Bratton, who ran the LAPD between 2002 and 2009, advocates:

  • del

    Oh Great hand,

    honestly you are one of the few who have highlighted how the gangs turn on and feed off the communities in which they live. However it starts in the schools before these people join gangs where some kids are intent on destroying their opportunity and the opportunities of others.

    Yet over £5.5m is paid to for the EMA in hackney alone every year. Social housing is provided to criminal gangs as are family benfits etc. There needs to be a commitment “to do no harm” by encouraging/enabling the anti social people to derail those who are doing what is necessary to get ahead.

    If ethnic cops are wanted – then ethnic people have to become cops. I have no great problem with the police being from out the area – given the sort of behaviour these kids get up to I would not want to be cop and live in the area – how long before one of them stabs your kid or pours petrol through the letterbox – both of these could be very likely in hackney. While the accusion that the cops have not learnt – neither have the people on the estates – the writing is no the wall, educate yourself, expose yourself to people whop construct and build things, and doors start to open. Anyone sitting around on their bike in their hoodie, dealing, robbing and bullying is closing the door on themselves.

  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    Del, the gangs and the more violent, negative associations of hip-hop culture are major pieces of the puzzle; but, by the same token, they’re simply the latest manifestations of a problem which is decades-old, i.e. the predatory nature of a small, hardcore minority within Britain’s poorest neighbourhoods. The politicians seem to want to remove the symptoms, without dealing with the underlying disease.

    Your idea of a pledge ‘to do no harm’ as part of the social contract is long overdue: crime so often runs in families; if there was a sincere commitment on the part of the authorities to deal with the repeat offenders effectively (including the power to remove them from the estates where they’ve been allowed to terrorise their neighbours for so long), then the work of re-education and reconstruction could begin in earnest.

    And as you say, personal responsibility and self-education are key to making this work.


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