Most Brits not surprised riots so violent

Years of police force cutbacks, continuing economic recession, and massive immigration have led to “moral collapse” in society.

POLICE OFFICERS arrest a man in London (photo credit: REUTERS/Anthony Devlin)
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.
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.
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“It’s 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 Daily Mail, journalist Melanie Phillips noted that there had been a breakdown of the family.
“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 wrote.
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 backgrounds.
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 charity worker.
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 ( 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 community.
“We plan to deliver all the goods on Friday.”