Running Through Riotous London

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Al Jazeera English

Running Through Riotous London

Monday night in Hackney, where young people who bear the brunt of an austerity crisis took over the streets.

Yesterday, the streets of London were full of the rage of youth.

When I went out to photograph events, the situation was scary and volatile - but I met children who looked out for me, covering my back when I was using my camera, telling me when gangs and thieves were stalking me.

Gloucester riots

In the Hackney district of the city, the youth were intent on fighting the police. One boy told me that he was sick of being stopped and searched and that this was a settling of scores with the "Feds", as he called the police.

In 2009, Lord Carlile, reviewing police stop-and-search powers, found that Black and Asian youth in Britain were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites.

Amid the volatile chaos on Monday night, criminal gangs took advantage of the situation. What self-respecting criminal gang would not? I saw a couple of 40-year-old white men heading into the middle of a stand-off between youngsters and police lines, carrying power tools and hammers. A bunch of boys were following, asking each other: "Are they are really going to do so-and-so's shop?"

Lack of awareness

On Twitter late last night, following the main bulk of the riots, I was astonished at the incomprehension generally expressed as to why they had occurred. There seemed to be an extraordinary lack of awareness that working class youth in Britain are being punished for the financial excesses of the banking collapse.

The public spending cuts this year meant many of the youth summer schemes in London did not run. These riots suggest boredom - and inarticulate rage. The youth are smashing and grabbing the things society tells them to want.

The coalition government's austerity measures have hit this generation hard. There will be no higher education for those who cannot take on burdensome debt. The chance of ever being able to afford to buy a home in London seems remote - except for those whose wealthier parents can provide the deposit for a home loan.

A generation of young people have been left behind by this coalition's policies and the policies of previous governments. How can these young people see that they have anything invested in British society that will enable them to become fulfilled and successful adults?

The comments on Twitter and Facebook, following Monday's riots in London, starkly reflect the class divides within Britain today.

Read the rest here.

Pennie Quinton

Pennie Quinton is a freelance journalist based in East London. You can read more of her writings on her website and on her blog.

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