Recent London riots involving arson and vandalism, of only those stores which are selling fancy goodies, are said to have shocked the world as much as these have shocked the British themselves. There are so many theories leading to the clue as to why peaceful and civilized Londoners suddenly turned violent. All those venturing these theories have made so many points, most of which accuse an ethnic minority directly or indirectly. One thing is for sure; the riots apparently triggered by shooting Mark Duggan were not political in nature, these were essentially “shopping riots”. The disturbance gave people of all hue to attack, and plunder, not the symbols of political power but stores. The riots were all about looting. Period.
Those who thought Britain was a peaceful heaven as compared to other places were in shock; the only people who were not shocked are the ones who have a close grip on the history of rioting in Britain. People, through a powerful media, were made to believe that looting was alien to British tradition, imported by immigrants more recent than the Normans. Not so. Gavin Mortimer, author of The Blitz, had an amusing piece in the First Post, as reproduced by CounterPunch about the conduct of Britons at the time of their Finest Hour:
“It didn’t take long for a hardcore of opportunists to realise there were rich pickings available in the immediate aftermath of a raid – and the looting wasn’t limited to civilians.
“In October 1940 Winston Churchill ordered the arrest and conviction of six London firemen caught looting from a burned-out shop to be hushed up by Herbert Morrison, his Home Secretary. The Prime Minister feared that if the story was made public it would further dishearten Londoners struggling to cope with the daily bombardments…
“The looting was often carried out by gangs of children organized by a Fagin figure; he would send them into bombed-out houses the morning after a raid with orders to target coins from gas meters and display cases containing First World War medals. In April 1941 Lambeth juvenile court dealt with 42 children in one day, from teenage girls caught stripping clothes from dead bodies to a seven-year-old boy who had stolen five shillings from the gas meter of a damaged house. In total, juvenile crime accounted for 48 per cent of all arrests in the nine months between September 1940 and May 1941 and there were 4,584 cases of looting.
“Joan Veazey, whose husband was a vicar in Kensington, south London, wrote in her diary after one raid in 1940: “The most sickening thing was to see people like vultures, picking up things and taking them away. I didn’t like to feel that English people would do this, but they did.”
“Perhaps the most shameful episode of the whole Blitz occurred on the evening of March 8 1941 when the Cafe de Paris in Piccadilly was hit by a German bomb. The cafe was one of the most glamorous night spots in London, the venue for off-duty officers to bring their wives and girlfriends, and within minutes of its destruction the looters moved in.
“Some of the looters in the Cafe de Paris cut off the people’s fingers to get the rings,” recalled Ballard Berkeley, a policeman during the Blitz who later found fame as the ‘Major’ in Fawlty Towers. Even the wounded in the Cafe de Paris were robbed of their jewellery amid the confusion and carnage.”
Those riots were not as deadlier as those of the last week because social media and technology could not be used at that time.
The riots in London last week started in Tottenham in an area with the highest unemployment in London, in response to the police shooting a young black man, in a country where black people are 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the cops than whites. Did they vent their anger and frustration in the form of arson and vandalism is matter of analysis but looter is a looter whether a small-time street-smart thug or billionaire. The only difference is that the latter can get away with it. An interesting analysis in Information Clearing House, says that according to the through-the-looking-glass cosmology of mass media elitists, when a poor person commits a crime of opportunity, his actions are a threat to all we hold dear and sacred, but, when the hyper-wealthy of the entrenched looter class abscond with billions, those criminals are referred to as our financial leaders.