London Riots

Zaynab Siddiqui, Author

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London riots

London’s grey, unpleasant land had erupted into a fiery storm of resentment, as the downtrodden urban class filled the streets. Mark Duggan had been shot two days earlier and it only took 48 hours before riots spread like wildfire.The brutal murder had caused already high tensions between police and black community to spiral into chaos. I watched as the city that I had loved, and grown up in; crumble around me.

Thursday:

The body of Mark Duggan had not even entered the ground, and protesters had already lined Tottenham’s streets. Fresh with the vigour of youth, they marched with purpose and pride. The idea of speaking up against police brutality was a relatively new concept, so when news of the protests entered our living rooms, it shocked the nation. More than anything it shocked me. At the simple age of 11, I asked myself how anyone could ever question the motives of a police officer. How could those who impose the law, be under the law? Although these unanswered questions bothered me, my fleeting mind had more pressing issues. Like when I could start playing tennis again, or when my best friend Sommer would be coming over.

Friday:

The cracks were beginning to form, and the threads that held the police force together were beginning to break. I was blissfully unaware of all this as I was going through an internal turmoil of preteen angst.  That summer I felt alone. My dad and brothers were in India while my mom and I were in England looking after my grandparents. Everyday I would Skype my brothers, which was always a mistake because a deep jealousy would bubble inside me. Servants were waiting on them hand and foot in my grandparents’ hotel as they pranced around the valleys of the Himalayas. And although I was skyping them from a comfy house in the nicest part of London, I couldn’t help but feel a little resentment at the fun they seemed to be having.

Sunday:

For a while a facade of normality glazed over the suburbs of London. People buried the protests deep in their subconscious. Life continued as normal… or so we thought. It wasn’t until late that afternoon that we head that violence had broken out in east London. When we turned on our TVs the images we saw were horrific. Pieces of shattered glass spilled onto the road, as teenages laughing like hyenas ran in and out, yelling obscenities at the police  as they sprinted down the street with TVs, clothes and jewlery stuffed under their arms. The whole of Tottenham was covered in thick smoke and fire. Police and street kids had begun to attack each other, forming a huge indistinguishable mass. In the haze of it all some intrepid journalists ran into the Hell on Earth to capture it. When we were done absorbing what we could my grandfather turned off the TV, leaving us all in a state of  shock.

Thursday:

A harsh tension had fallen over London in the four days that followed the first outbreak of violence. The streets were filled with deafening silence, and rumors filled that they were coming towards Wimbledon. My mother doubted this because Wimbledon was a primarily white area. She was right, and we all knew the riots wouldn’t hit us because the police made it a priority that the predominantly white areas received more protection. It was an unspoken, yet universal truth. The suburbs around us had been destroyed yet we stayed in a bubble of security. People walked to the stores in haste, before the sun set. Storefronts were boarded up and police patrolled every corner and watched your every move.

The aftermath:

I don’t really remember how it all ended, and if one were to ask me when it ended, I  wouldn’t be able to give an answer.  Unlike my family I wasn’t entirely focused on the events around me. I was naive, and couldn’t fully comprehend the enormity of the situation. It wasn’t until a few years later that I stepped back and looked at the systematic violence that occurred around me, made me realize how big the riots were. While I was playing with my Nintendo DS, a class and race war broke out around. Although it died within in two weeks, the feelings of resentment are still present in London today. Businesses were destroyed and families were torn apart. When I return to England every summer I see the effect of the riots and how London is still recovering. Through the riots I have learned the power of communication. What happened in Baltimore and London could have all been prevented if we sat down and listened.  

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