As a community responds to the riots, which began in Tottenham, with the despair and frustrations that underlies them, 1500 people marched from Dalston to Tottenham pleading 'Give Our Kids a Future'. London, UK. 13th August 2011
As a community response to the riots which began there and the despair and frustrations that underlie them, 1500 people marched from Dalston to Tottenham pleading "Give Our Kids a Future." London, UK. 13/08/2011
Many of those who live in the more deprived areas of our cities or who work on the streets of them were not surprised by the disorder and looting that began in Tottenham last Saturday and quickly spread to other areas. It had for some time - certainly since the election of the coalition and the start of their programme of cuts - seemed inevitable and was clearly predicted by some. There was a riot waiting to happen and it just needed a spark to set it off.
The cuts had begun under the previous government - and Labour had pledged to continue them were they re-elected, though perhaps with not quite the same conviction and apparent relish as the coalition. Already the youth services have been hard hit, and many youth clubs and other facilities have been closed. The announcement that the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) was to end this summer had much of the youth of London up in arms around the end of last year, with school kids taking part in the student demonstrations, as well as protesting against university fee hikes. Many saw and suffered from heavy-handed policing with kettling, excessive use of batons and charges into crowds by police horses.
The frustration and anger felt my many in poorer areas against the police continues to be ratcheted up by the stopping and searching targeted disproportionately on ethnic minorities and young people, particularly young men. It has been exacerbated by the many unexplained deaths in police custody as well as a few on the streets, and anger and resentment have been greatly multiplied by the lies told by police to the press, and the various cover-ups and white-washing by the IPCC, CPS and other authorities that have been used to prevent bringing those responsible to justice.
It wasn't even the shooting of Mark Duggan in what many in the area feel to have been a police execution, though others suspect it may have been more a matter of an officer cracking under pressure than any deliberate act. Though the undisguised glee with which some of the right wing media greeted his death (having tried and convicted him as a drug dealer) clearly raised tempers.
Even the total failure by Tottenham police to engage with the family members and others who held a peaceful vigil last Saturday might have passed without incident. What triggered the outbreak of rage that swept areas of London and other cities was when a group of police decided that a 15 year old girl was being too mouthy and attacked and beat her with their batons as outraged onlookers shouted their protests.
The march was organised and supported by a wide range of locally based organisations, including the Haringey Alliance for Public Services and the Hackney Alliance to Defend Public Services, Day-mer, the Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre, Day-Mer Youth, the North London Community Centre, the Alevi Cultural Centre, Fed-Bir, the Kurdish Community Centre, Roj Women, Halkevi, Gik-Der (the Refugee Workers Cultural Association), Britania Peace Council, the TOHUM Cultural Centre in Stoke Newington as well as various wider political and other groups including the Socialist Party, Youth Fight for Jobs, Right to Work and Red Pepper magazine.
While the organisers did not want to condone any illegal behaviour they set out to bring all sections of local communities together to promote unity and to urge for positive action working together to find solutions to some of the long-standing problems of the area which made it fertile ground for the disturbances.
Most of the demands made by the marchers and echoed in the various slogans they chanted were related to services in their community which have already been cut or are under threat. They want an end to the cuts in public services and for investment to be made into regeneration of the communities, with housing, jobs, education and leisure facilities and a restoration of all the youth services that have been cut.
More specifically about the riots they want a community led regeneration of the damaged areas and support for those affected, including the immediate rehousing of those made homeless and grants for small businesses.
But perhaps the most important of their demands was one for a cultural change, moving away from the demonisation of youth and the unemployed towards a culture of valuing all people. Their leaflet ended with the statement:
"Let's work together for a decent society, based not on greed, inequality and poor conditions, but on justice, freedom, sharing and cooperation."
The march made its way slowly up through Dalston and Stoke Newington, past Stamford Hill, where a number of small groups of orthodox Jews stood watching, and on past Seven Sisters to the council offices at Tottenham Green, where everyone stopped for a rally with anyone who wished to speak being given 2 minutes to say what they wanted.
Shortly before the march reached Seven Sisters there was one slightly odd incident, where a man who had been laying flowers on the road in front of the procession which the children had picked up was taken to one side by police and questioned briefly. He agreed to let them search his backpack, and after they did so they let him continue to follow the march.