Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Anniversary of the 2011 England Riots: What can we learn about this and other protests and riots? - part 1

photo of burned builing, above, burning double decker bus, below
(both photos from
On August 4th, 2011 police in a norther area of London, England shot an unarmed black man, Mark Duggan, leading to protests, which in turn were followed by outbreaks of incredibly destructive looting and burning, sometimes referred to as the Blackberry riots, aka the 'English Spring'.

While these events were given some coverage back in 2011, the subsequent analysis of events is insightful, not only in understanding those events, but in a different insight into our own protests and rioting in the U.S., covering events as disparate as the Occupy protests and the Trayvon Martin shooting protests to the Huntington Beach, California Surfing event riots, as well as looking at protest and rioting in movements internationally, like the ongoing Arab spring unrest.

Very little national/mainstream media attention, either broadcast or print, has been given to the information that the investigation into these events is ongoing. Taking a look at these events is important to understand both similarities and differences between them, in more careful analysis, in place of superficial coverage.

In August 2011, the events that began on August 4th continued to August 15th, resulting in the burning of 100 homes and businesses, and the arrest of more than 3,100 people, the identification of more than 3,500 crimes, 6 deaths, double digit injuries, and more than 200 million pound sterling in property damages, like the burned out building in the above photo. Half of that damage was in London, half in other parts of the country.

The Tottenham area of London was the site of riots in the mid-80s, the Broadwater Farm riots, which was attributed to racial components, as well as police distrust focused on unpopular policies, including specifically search policies as well as outrage over violence directed at black citizens by police, including different instances of shooting unarmed men. In this respect, although there was not widespread rioting, there were protests in events like the Oscar Grant III shooting, that was the subject of the Fruitvale Station movie.

There continue to be on-going investigations and court cases in both the Fruitvale station shooting by police, in the U.S., and in the police shooting of Mark Duggan in the UK. In the U.S., on July 30th, 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved that suit could move forward against the BART officers involved in the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant.

Likewise, investigations and court cases continue in the Mark Duggan shooting in the UK. An inquest has been postponed several times, and an investigative report has been pending since 2011. The most recent postponement of the inquest from the 2011 death is now scheduled for September 2013.

In my completely unscientific and casual survey, people seem to generally be unaware of the continuing investigation and litigation relating to these instances of civil unrest, as well as being unaware of what there is for us to learn from them that applies to other unrest, including some surprising statistics about differences in incidence by ethnicity, age, and gender, as well as the extensive role played by social media that makes these events different in the U.K., the U.S., and other parts of the globe, from similar events in previous decades, and similar but earlier movements. In exploring the topic, I'm going to examine what we know, what we think we know (but don't), and what we have wrong in our understanding and information, and the role of the media in contributing to those categories.

Stay tuned!

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