Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Asking for answers

Only last week Andy and I finally finished putting together the copy for our programme/zine. We decided to put together a section called “Enough with the Theatre” where we detailed 20 things to do in Edinburgh that had nothing to do with seeing a show. Andy wrote the last suggestion on the list – “Start a Revolution.”

Either that day, or the day before, or the day after, I wrote an entry on this blog called “A Frog Swimming in Water” where I suggested that our liberties are stripped from us one ignored outcry at a time – until the water is hot enough that it’s time to stop swimming.

Two days after writing that post, a riot broke out in Tottenham. When I first heard about it the reason seemed unclear – it was something to do with a shooting, and some friends had heard the man who was shot had been connected with a gang. I later found out it was the shooting of 29 year old Marc Duggan, a father of three, who allegedly had connections with the “Star Gang” but according to the findings of the recent Independent Police Complaints Commission did not fire at the police who shot him on Thursday night.

The riot began as a peaceful protest, asking for answers from the police, and turned violent after an officer pushed a young woman. Since then rioting has spread throughout London, all the way to Birmingham and Manchester. The police presence in London has been stepped up from 6,000 to 16,000.

The day after the first riot, I arrived in Edinburgh. I sit in our newly painted office/greenroom and I try to make sense of what is happening four hours south, where I live.

In the past year I have met more people who are angry, genuinely angry than I can ever remember meeting. The first time I remember realising how profound, widespread and justified this indignation had become was at the start of the G20 weekend, before the media coverage of police violence, when my historically conservative father wrote me an email about Toronto that read as though he was a dyed-in-the wool left wing activist. Only later did I realise that his feelings of mistrust towards the police and politicans were not extreme at all. They were the simple and and very understandable reaction of someone who was there.

This anger has been brewing – but most people I know have sought to vent it in cerebral ways – talking, letter writing, blogging – with varying effectiveness. Now in the face of violence and looting, this anger is frighteningly pure, and unlike the more tempered approaches mentioned, it’s hard to know where pure violence and anger is coming from and how to deal with it. It certainly elicits a response, and much more attention than our “peaceful” protests (and I write “peaceful” because the police presence has been known to compromise the peace of a protest). I’m sure that in some cases these cerebral tactics have touched upon the abstract philsophical notion of rioting – in discussion it may have seemed necessary, heroic, even romantic - but now that the violence has really broken out this pure action is too furious to articulate itself, to deliver a message or a clear path to resolution.

I have heard the rioters called chavs – and I have heard about needless violence, crime, theft, murder. It is terrifying, worrying stuff. What has not been mentioned is that outbursts of violence, anger, even crime, do not happen in a vacuum. A man was shot by the police, a young female peaceful protester was pushed by the police. It all kicked off, but nobody would say that this was the beginning. After we retreat from the violence, I hope that elected officials see this as more than random outbursts of violence by a group of inexplicable deviants. I hope they ask themselves some questions. What is this violence indicative of? What are the other straws that lie upon that camel’s overburdened back? How long has this anger been brewing and where did it come from?

16,000 police may be a short term tactic, but they are not a long term solution. The question is urgent. The anger isn't going anywhere.

1 comment:

Sapphiraaaa said...

This is brilliantly said.