Articles

Tottenham 5 years on: you cant predict a riot but you can explain it

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2016 by kmflett

Tottenham 5 years on. You can’t predict a riot but you can explain it.

flettriot

I was present at the Tottenham riot 5 years ago though accidentally. I lived then as I still do in central Tottenham but had been for a meal with my partner elsewhere in London. Alerted to events by a friend on twitter I hastened back. After all as Secretary of Haringey TUC I thought it my duty to be there and see what was happening.

I was of course aware that some form of protest after the police shooting of Mark Duggan two days previously, not 5 minutes from my Tottenham flat, was likely and indeed quite justified. The precise form it took was a surprise to me, and I suspect to most. The reaction or perhaps more accurately the lack of action of the authorities did not help.

It is an important point. Despite the Kaiser Chiefs record you cant predict a riot. The Guardian has published a useful piece by one of those behind the important 2011 Reading the Riots project noting that conditions in Haringey have not get better and indeed some areas worse in the last 5 years. Given a Government obsessed with austerity- that is bashing the least well off- this is hardly a surprise.

As I noted in the Guardian at the time the general sense of pissed-off ness in the area was the background to the riot. It was not the motor. That was the failure of the police to relate properly to the shooting of Mark Duggan. It quite rightly enraged people.

Riots are chaotic situations and that night 5 years ago was no exception. Fortunately I was able to return home- indeed buses were running to within a few hundred yards of the riot.

As I noted at the time, whether you think riots have a place or not is one thing but condemning what took place hardly helps. People were pissed off with a lack of opportunity, with overbearing policing, racism and much else. 5 years on many still are.

That doesn’t mean another riot is likely. Such events have complex roots and can’t be recreated to order.
But while unemployment, for example, in Tottenham is considerably lower on official totals than it was five years ago it remains the highest in London.

In the face of austerity and Government cuts to spending the Council has done what it can. It must be said that the rhetoric is often too enthusiastic in contrast to the reality.

Of course there are reasons for hope. Five years ago no one thought Tottenham would be the centre of brewing it now is with Redemption, One Mile End and Beavertown all in N17. No one thought it would also be home to the premier London cheese maker Wildes either.

In addition thanks not to the Council’s overblown regeneration plans, but rather the dreadful state of the London housing market, the social mix of the area is changing too. There are views on how positive this is and the impact it has but it it is  nonetheless a reality.

But the reality of poverty and racism remains and fighting back against that in whatever way is effective is something that is still important.

And let’s not forget that the event that sparked it all off, the shooting by police of Mark Duggan remains for many an unresolved and contentious matter. No justice, no peace, as many rightly say in Tottenham.

We need to recognise that the injustices and inequalities of 5 years ago remain but nothing stands still. Tottenham continues to change and in some, but far from all ways, there are things to celebrate too.

Keith Flett is the Secretary of Haringey TUC and Editor of the History of Riots (CSP 2015)

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