England’s Riots Caused By Anger with Police (Video)

In August, there were major riots in England, first in Tottenham and then the rest of London and then across England.

At the time, politicians and many commentators dismissed the riots as ‘criminality pure and simple.’ The government refused to conduct any investigation into the causes.

Now a study has been carried out by the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Guardian newspaper which involves interviews with 270 rioters.

The project collected more than 1.3 million words of first-person accounts from rioters, giving an unprecedented insight into what drove people to participate in England’s most serious bout of civil unrest in a generation. Rioters revealed that a complex mix of grievances brought them on to the streets but analysts appointed by the LSE identified distrust and antipathy toward police as a key driving force.

Of those interviewed, 85% cited anger at policing practices as a key factor in why the violence happened. Other factors cited included anger at the government over cuts to benefits and the educational maintenance allowance (EMA), which is aimed at keeping teenagers in school.

Many of the young people involved had been on protests against the tripling of university tuition fees and removal of EMA. The government argued that the rioting had to do with gang culture. However, the report reveals that for four days, there was an effective truce between gangs as they were united in fighting with the police.

Many rioters conceded that their involvement in looting was simply down to opportunism, saying that a perceived suspension of normal rules presented them with an opportunity to acquire goods and luxury items they could not ordinarily afford. They often described the riots as a chance to obtain “free stuff” or sought to justify the theft.

Contrary to widespread speculation that rioters used social media to organize themselves and share “viral” information, sites such as Facebook and Twitter were not used in any significant way. However, BlackBerry phones – and the free messaging service known as “BBM” – were used extensively to communicate, share information and plan riots in advance.

Four out of five participants in the unrest think there will be a repeat, with most believing poverty to be a factor.

The Metropolitan police’s internal report on the riots, released last week, appeared to identify simmering tensions with police. Citing community feedback about the riots, the report concluded:

Either the violence was spontaneous without any degree of forethought or … a level of tension existed among sections of the community that was not identified through the community engagement.

The Met said it welcomed the research that provides an insight into why the riots occurred “so that police and society can do everything possible to prevent a recurrence.”



Related stories:

London’s Race Riots — Unemployment and Disrespect To Blame

Could the London Riots Happen in the US?

Dozens Injured After Violence and Looting in London

Photo: Cover of The Guardian newspaper


don wreford
don wreford6 years ago

Re, Will R, I am not in to a competition on how bad it gets with police involvement with Smiley verses Duggan killings, or any opening up other scenarios, what interests me is Duggan killed by police and the Smiley scenario is voluminous and ambivalent as to murder or suicide, what becomes prevalent is their a list of police involvements and death being associated with police being incriminated? the background of police require further examination such as being in military service where killing is inconsequential? and are these killings connected to police and victim a disparity of culture clash? if so I am suggesting police training attempts to resolve these issues, and if not , the politics are to be questioned as to, what is the agenda masking or supporting police culture and activity with outcomes such as the ones undergoing discussion?

Ernie Miller
william Miller6 years ago

I have been messed with by Police and seen others messed with but I would never go out and trach peoples property just because I could. What if they were in my neighborhood? I wouldnt want my stuff traches and burned.

Michael MacDonald

all of the insensitive and ignorant comments on here.

I see a ton of people saying that people only ever riot because "they think it's fun".

do you explain the riots after martin luther king was shot the same way?

If you want to put your heads in the sand and just assume that there are no inequalities in society that cause people to act this way,
then you're an idiot.
Sorry, but that's all there is to it.

Rioting is definitely not the answer, because it just gives everyone like you the chance to say that these people have no cause,
but that couldn't be father from the truth.

You can deny the inequalities in society all you want.
The writing is on the wall.

Michael MacDonald

I could have told them this when it happened.
I mean,
cops all over the world beat and stomp protesters.
The worst consequences they ever get for it is losing a few vacations days
so what do you expect other than people eventually fighting back in full force.
You can't do that, get away with it, and not expect it to explode in your face eventually.
I don't condone rioting.
It only hurts the cause,
but there are damn good reasons why people do it.

Roger Brenton
Roger B6 years ago

There's a large and growing criminal underclass in the UK with no sense of right and wrong, no self control and think the world owes them a living. Someone commented that people don't riot for the fun of it - that's completely wrong. That's precisely why many were rioting - they thought it was fun, thought they'd get something for nothing and even if they did get caught would only get another slap on the wrist thanks to our pathetic legal system that so often favours the wrongdoer.
The same garbage is always trotted out to excuse criminal behaviour but the majority of the population are, thankfully, law-abiding people who don't riot and destroy others' livelihoods.
Interestingly the only premises to have escaped damage were bookshops, which says a lot about the intellect of the looters.

Emily A.
Emily A6 years ago

I saw the play "The Riots," which was basically a series of monologues from a whole range of people who took part in, were ordered to police and directly affected by the riots that took place in London in August. You felt sympathy for both sides - as they did include the insight from the massively understaffed police force that were sent out to patrol the area. First of all, it's amazing how easily I forgot how large and disturbing the riots were and secondly, the first twenty minutes or so did a very good job of explaining how the riots actually started and in front of Tottenham police station. I was even caught up in a bit of a ruckus in Camden that did properly scare me. But anyway, the insight I gained from the play was that it was the society that we all take part in and agree to, that failed. I know that kind sounds like a cop out and, but really, the policies and laws that we are meant to follow and let dictate our life failed the aggrieved who were rioting by excluding them ("If The Young Men Are Not Initiated Into The Village, They Will Burn It Down To Experience It's Warmth"... Old African Proverb), the police force who were massively understaffed whose procedural dictates focused less and less upon a proactive approach to protecting people and more on 'getting the baddies', as well as those whose property was destroyed due to their thinking that 'well the police will handle it, let's leave it to them.' We are asked to trust the system, even when it fails us,

Will Rogers
Will Rogers6 years ago

Forget about Duggan, they should have never killed the entertainer Smiley Culture. Who police say killed himself in his own house while under police custody by stabbing himself in the back through the heart. He was famous for a tune called, ironically "Police officer" where he criticises the police for continually stopping him.

Roger Monk
Past Member 6 years ago

Deborah. I agree with you completely.

And so it would seem that any prejudice here is yours alone. And don't call me dear. I am not dear to you.

I'd like to commend those here who've made parallels throughout society. The hypocrisy is staggering. Gerald Kaufman MP was among those calling for severe sentences for the rioters. Perhaps he's forgotten that just a couple of years previously he'd put in an MP's expenses claim for £8,500 for a TV set. It's seems to me that the difference between doing this and taking one from a shop is vanishingly small.

don wreford
don wreford6 years ago

The year 2010, a decision to reduce the British police force as a result of lower stats of crime, the police fearing the loss of jobs may have contributed to a sacrificial ritual killing of Mark Duggan, of Tottenham, for many who are of lower social economic status, having the feeling that the police rather than being a benevolent protector of citizens for peace and justice, are protectors of the rich and those of perceived social or class standing, at the termination of WW2, in 1945, some may remember police having a commitment to check the handles of shops for security purposes, I have know the police to inform shop owners of of unsecured shop premises, this touching example of police reassurance and commitment to the public is now history, many now see police as having bellicosity and revenue raisers, intrinsically many are unconvinced of the fear factor generated by the threat of terrorism, a more realistic model is the fabrication of fear purposes other than the supposed mythology we are induced to believe.