POLICE OFFICERS arrest a man in London.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Anthony Devlin)
LONDON – It was business as usual Wednesday night in London’s West End, with
thousands of tourists and locals making their way home on the underground or to
pubs and bars as theater land let out.
RELATED:UK: 26-year-old shot in car becomes first riot fatalityEx-Israeli senior cops: 'London police were unprepared'
However, the relative quiet seemed
to be misleading as just hours before in areas as close as the popular shopping
district on Oxford Street and numerous other neighborhoods scattered around the
capital were rocked by what residents said were “wild mobs” rioting in the
streets, looting shops and setting fire to garbage bins and cars.
just a bunch of hooligans,” commented one Londoner, who said she was growing
concerned that riots could reach her neighborhood northwest of the city. “There
were a few shops not far away that were looted.”
While the level of
violence was truly shocking in a nation known for its usually refined,
stiff-necked approach to most crises, most people said they were not surprised
that the unrest has escalated so quickly and to such levels. Years of cutbacks
to the police force, a continuing economic recession, a massive influx of
immigrants and deepening social problems have all led to what many British
people see as a “moral collapse” in society.
Commenting Thursday in the
, journalist Melanie Phillips noted that there had been a breakdown of
“The married two-parent family, educational meritocracy,
punishment of criminals, national identity, enforcement of the drug laws and
many more fundamental conventions were all smashed by a liberal intelligentsia
hellbent on a revolutionary transformation of society,” she
However, as the violence spread Wednesday out of London northwards
to Birmingham – where three people were killed – and beyond to Liverpool,
Manchester and Nottingham, youth workers in some of the troubled areas said that
the unrest was symptomatic of a young people who have been ignored by the
government and left with little job opportunities or chances to improve their
lives in the future.
While many of those arrested over the past four days
were certainly from low socioeconomic neighborhoods, reports in the local media,
which has undertaken a process of “naming and shaming” those involved in the
violence, show that those arrested are from a wide range of different
A boy as young as 11 years old from Romford in Essex was the
youngest person to be arrested Wednesday, accused of stealing from a local
department store, reported the Daily Mail. Others who were hauled in by police
included the 19- year-old daughter of a millionaire, a postman and even a
Despite the tense mood in Britain, there have been some
hopeful signs with local communities around the country coming together to help
each other and protect homes and other property.
Within the Jewish
community, the Orthodox charity Tikun (www.tikun.co.uk) had already set up a
special drive to collect blankets, clothing and raise money for victims who have
lost their homes and possessions in the riots.
“The rioting started on
the afternoon of Tisha Be’av,” commented Tikun’s operation manager Julian
Fraser. “And by Wednesday we noticed that there had really been no efforts by
local charities here to help the people who have lost everything. I looked
around and saw there are loads of charity drives to help starving people in
Africa but nothing to help people on our own doorstep.”
Fraser, who said
the goal of Tikun was to get the Jewish community active in giving and volunteer
activities, said that he contacted the local city council of Haringey in London
to see what was needed.
“They told me that many families have had to be
evacuated from their homes because of the riots and that they need clothes and
food,” he said.
There were still no official estimates Thursday as to how
many people countrywide have been affected.
Fraser said that since
launching the drive on Wednesday, the charity had already collected some 30 bags
of clothing, toys, blankets, bedding and shoes. He said that local stores had
also donated baby food and diapers.
“People have come out to help in very
short notice,” said Fraser, adding that the organization had used social
networks such as Facebook and Twitter to reach out to members of the Jewish
“We plan to deliver all the goods on Friday.”