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Everyone Has Their Agenda
I remarked to Ina this morning that, if you were really sceptical, you could say that the police have been 'holding back' (if they have, which I doubt) so that they could point out, with justice, that they need to use much stronger tactics - such as plastic baton-rounds and water cannon or even just letting the dogs go - against the looters and arsonists and that, in current circumstances, they cannot be accused of 'excessive force' whatever they do now short of letting loose with the Heckler and Kochs. Also, that it was a good time to point out that, if they cannot handle the situation before the financial cuts, think what it will be like after them.

I now note that the police are, indeed, with government approval, about to take up 'stronger tactics' against the gangs. (I'm pretty sure it's the street gangs for which North London is infamous that are at the centre of the problem.)

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I think a useful definition of "excessive force" in this context is "Any police (or for that matter civilian) response to the rioters that results in innocent people getting hurt."

Personally, I'd define "reasonable force" as "Any action by police (or for that matter civilians) that protects innocent people and their property from rioting scumbags, regardless of what happens to the rioting scumbags. And that includes rioting scumbags dying horribly."

Ah, but then you also have to define 'innocent' or possibly re-define it from the way it is currently interpreted. After all, that little arsonist bastard who has just set fire to a complex of shops and flats is probably "only doing it because he isn't properly respected" and "because he can't get a job because of government policies."

Oh, and I pretty much agree with you.

(Hark at me! I'm, by background, a working class socialist brought up on a Northern council estate by parents who both suffered from debilitating illnesses. They weren't religious (in fact they were both pretty much agnostic and spawned two militant atheists) but they were bloody moral - as were most of the people on said council estate. There were vandals about - but no-one tried to burn people alive.)

*Who can't spell...*

Edited at 2011-08-09 01:57 pm (UTC)

You'd have to be very cynical in fact. And also not believe in Occam's Razor. How about, instead, that the chap who runs the force quit a couple of weeks ago over News International, and in general the police's attention has been elsewhere.

Therefore, in early August, when *nearly everyone in positions of power in London has just gone on holiday* (seriously, it's getting like France in that regard), nobody had the classic leadership combination of guts and authority, on Saturday, to say 'hang the expense, we're going to call in all officers and stop this dead'. Because all of this has happened because, on Saturday, they didn't have enough policemen available to stop rioting in Tottenham Hale retail park for hours and hours.

I'm pretty sure it's the street gangs for which North London is infamous that are at the centre of the problem.)

My colleague's nephew is in the Met. He saw the rioting and could name the gang involved in starting up quite a lot of the issues. Apparently the gangs tend to be the ones breaking open the shops but then leave it to others to loot.

And yet the gangs have not been mentioned once in all the comments I have seen.

That is a good point, but I also feel that individual officers are likely to have been wary about being more aggressive because a) the world's media would be looking for images of "police brutality" and b) it's not all that long since that newspaper seller died after being hit by a policeman because it turned out he had a weak heart.

I do not envy the police in this situation because they are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

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They shut all the shops in Chislehurst High Street this afternoon. God knows what we are to expect tonight.

Better safe than sorry until we have more of the fuckers in jail.

Chislehurst?? good lord.

They're boarding up large bits of TCR tonight.

Very scary video coming on the news over here. I know y'all are safe, but I do have friends in Birmingham. I feel for the causes of the people rioting, but I somehow can't connect that to looting electronics. The same thing happened here during the LA riots.

They aren't 'rioting' - they are looting and setting fire to buildings, sometimes with people in them. As for the reasons - I doubt that most of them could given you a coherent sentence detailing a single one of them.

What nobody seems to understand is that society is not homogeneous, but in all major aspects there are bell curves of behaviour that change according to circumstances.

If you patrol the streets aggressively, more of the population will take umbrage and use any excuse to get 'revenge'

If you close the youth clubs a certain percentage of kids that previously haven't will start to roam the streets and will cause trouble simply because they are there.

If you have a peaceful protest, some of those there will see it as an opportunity for violence, revenge and looting.

If the police let looters loot without hindrance then a small number of people will see it as licence for them to do the same.

The level of frustration within the sink estates across the country has been rising. That pushes more of the population into the 'give me an excuse and I'll wreck something camp'

It is a fact that in all countries the police can only operate with the consent of the local population. If the number of people actively withholding consent reaches somewhere between 8% and 15% then the police cannot work. Then you send in the army and try and contain it by shooting people. But you don't 'police' in those circumstances.

The lessons to learn from this outburst is that the police cannot back off from visible 'crime' without encouraging copycat actions, but that it was the police killing of a citizen in dubious circumstances that kicked it off. (As virtually every set of riots in UK in modern times have been)

It's a tinder box out there

If the government doesn't address the fundamental problem of too many people in the bell curve ready to withdraw consent to the police, there will be more of this.

And note that 'vigilantes' are just the 'respectable' side of the withdrawing of consent. When they hurt or kill their first gang member that could start a war the army might be needed to quell.

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