I am in two minds over this question, I find I have a suspicion that though initially it was an opportunistic hijack of a peaceful protest in Tottenham, that over subsequent nights that the more organised gangs in London have capitalised on a meme and are involved in a semi-organised riot cum robbery.
All in all it is a difficult subject to tackle and I may wish tomorrow or the next day that I wrote something different to what I write here, but I feel I should write something.
The strategy of the rioters/gangs seems to be to get around 200 youths in one place start a big fire, attack any police who happen to show up and then as systematically as possible loot any commercial or residential premises they can, and then move on. At this time of writing I think that there are several gangs involved, though I would not know any of the potential gangs to name. I also think that it would be too concrete to think that all the participants are gang members, rather there are core groups, who perhaps through notoriety or the offer of excitement and loot are able to draw more peripheral participants into the equation.
This is not a new phenomena, this has existed as a strategy both militarily and in gang conflicts for thousands of years. Hannibal Barca humiliated the roman army for 20 years using a very similar strategy, and the Viet Cong essentially defeated the American Army in a related way. At present the strategy is working, because the police are working hard to stay within the rules laid down for them.
It is, truth be known, a difficult strategy to counter, and in it’s early stages to even spot. As I write I wonder if it may take some time to reduce the impact of this strategy. Worse still might be if the ad-hoc organisation I perceive to be behind this has the strategic sense to disappear for a few weeks. Which might make tracking the central culprits down all the more difficult.
London however has tools at it’s disposal, the CCTV network is extensive and it is likely that at least some of the rioters will be tracked down through this method.. It remains to be seen if this will include ring leaders, or just followers.
The biggest tool at the disposal of Londoners however is themselves, they have phones, they have cameras, record and film everything and anything particularly groups of running youths. They also have their own numbers, this does not need to take a vigilante form it can simply be law abiding people standing up for themselves and their neighbours, standing together and showing a determination not to be intimidated, not to be provoked, but to defend themselves and each other en mass. This of course is true for all communities in any other cities similarly affected around the UK.
A few hundred or even a few thousand rioters cannot intimidate 60 million people, if those 60 million people stand together to defend each other, and if those 60 million people stand together there will be nowhere for rioters to hide. Every side street they run into will be filled with those who oppose them. An advantage the Romans did not have when confronted with Hannibal.
If anything the lesson of these riots is that as a nation, disparate though be our origins, various be our beliefs and different our hopes and dreams, we are still a nation. A nation drawn together by history, by flawed years of empire, and a brave effort to creating a shared egalitarian future. Some of us by birth some of us by choice, some of us because troubles in other lands forced our immigration, but still a nation. The question is are we a nation who expects someone else to be responsible for law and order or are we all responsible for law and order. Do we walk by on the other side or do we step forward to help.
I hope we are the latter, I hope we can tell the rioters, how foolish they are, how poor they make themselves, by taking what they cannot earn, and remind them of how fearful they must be to try to provoke fear in others. Remind them they are the children and we are the adults. Because thats what they are, children foolish lost chidren, who feel omnipotent because no-one stands up to them, but who are frightened to face life alone, and only feel strong and powerful with the protection of a gang.