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Comment - on the riots

English riots:

Two riots, two meetings, two boroughs by David Flint.

In late September the authorities held public meetings on the riots in Enfield and Haringey. Members of the local Green parties attended both meetings. The Enfield meeting, chaired by Southgate MP David Burrowes, was orderly and constructive. The borough police commander, Dave Tucker, explained what had happened during the Enfield riot and why the Police had responded as they had. He told us that known gang members were present but "not acting as gangs". The town centre manager, Mark Rudling, had also been there and was sure that the riot had not been spontaneous. And it seemed clear that motives for the attack on the Sony Distribution Centre were theft first, arson second and protest not at all. The general sense was that the Enfield Police had done a decent job in difficult circumstances and that the riot was not a response to circumstances in Enfield.

The meeting went on to discuss local initiatives that might improve matters in the future but nothing, of course, that would address the root causes - inequality, racial disadvantage, heavy-handed policing and the alienation of so many young people. After the meeting N21.net recorded comments from David Burrowes, Dave Tucker, Mark Rudling and, er, me.

The Haringey meeting was quite different. Local MPs arrived late, the roving microphone didn't work, the chairmanship was highly partisan and the (Labour) leader of Haringey told lies about the closure of a community centre. The lies led to anger and the meeting seems to have achieved nothing. Indeed, it probably made relations between police and public worse (if that was even possible).

It's a stark contrast. It's clear that each meeting reflected its community in the same way that the riots did. In Tottenham bad behaviour by the authorities sparked community anger. In Enfield police, shopkeepers and most of the community felt a sense of common purpose.

I know which I prefer; which is more comfortable. But that's a trap. Comfortable Enfield will not solve the problems that the riots have revealed. Only a transformation of our society can do that and that needs the anger that we saw and felt in Tottenham.

First published in the EGP members' Newsletter. October 2011.

Published and promoted by Bill Linton for Enfield Green Party, both at 39A Fox Lane, London N13 4AJ