2011 London Riots

Tottenham in north London is an ethnically diverse area. The locals in this area were protesting against the death of a 29-year-old Mark Duggan, a black man and an alleged crack cocaine dealer and member of the ‘Star Gang’, was shot in a police operation on 4 August 2011, as a part of Operation Trident, a unit which investigates gun crime in London.

How it started?

Trident officers, backed up by a CO19 detachment, which is the Metropolitan Police’s specialist gun unit , were conducting a “pre-planned” operation to arrest Duggan, when he was shot dead. There have been conflicting reports about Duggan’s background. Some have painted him as a suspected gang member, others as a loving family man unlikely to become involved in violence.

Friends and relatives of Duggan claimed that he was unarmed, but the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) stated that Duggan was carrying a loaded handgun. However, there was no evidence that Duggan attacked or shot at police. This was the trigger point of the riots.

Major areas affected?

  • The violence spread in several areas of London including north London suburb of Enfield, Brixton in the south and Oxford street in central London, the capital’s main shopping district. Thereafter, violence spread to other major British cities such as Birmingham and Gloucester in central England, Manchester, Salford, Liverpool and Nottingham further north and Bristol in the southwest.
  • The subsequent riots were tagged by the police as copycat events conducted by opportunists and criminals.

This was followed by introduction of special power by Police in 4 areas of London viz. Lambeth, Haringey, Enfield and Waltham Forest — allowing stop and search without reasonable suspicion in a bid to keep rioters off the streets.

Role of Social Media:

  • Officials in London said that smart phones and social networks like Twitter had been used by criminals to liaise and create the chaos.
  • BlackBerry’s messaging service was a popular means of communication to spread news about the violence. When Blackberry offered help to police, a hacker group called “TeaMp0isoN” hacked and defaced Blackberry’s official blog.

Is Tottenham a sensitive area?

  • No. It was the first riot in London in 21st century and Tottenham saw such violence way back in 1985.
  • However, last year London also saw the student riots against tuition fee rises. But at that time, there was no looting and the protests were organized and publicized in advance.

What is Current position?

  • Currently, the IPCC is conducting an investigation into Duggan’s death, which could take four to six months.
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that police would crack down hard to quell a wave of rioting and looting across London over the past three nights — the worst violence in the British capital in decades.

What are hidden reasons?

  • The roots of the violence and unrest in London lay in tensions and anger over economic hardship.
  • There is visible gap in the economic condition in London and prospects for many youths are dim, they have neither jobs nor money.
  • The unrest poses an added challenge to Cameron as Britain’s economy struggles to grow while his government slashes public spending and raises taxes to help eliminate a budget deficit.

Impact on 2012 London Olympics:

  • 2012 Olympic Games will showcase a dynamic, prosperous and cosmopolitan city but recent riots have exposed the ugly side of London to the rest of the world.
  • The officials in London say that violence would not hurt preparations for the Olympics. Everything is going ahead as planned…there is no change to the plans.

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