By Kevin M. Cabano ’12
Mark Duggan’s death at the hands of London police in early August led to accusations of police brutality, helping to spark violent riots that shook the city for several days.
The driving force behind the riots eventually shifted to a general testament of discontent.
But the rioters were wrong.
Throughout history, riots and mass protests have arisen in many places, and for different reasons. Some are justifiable, such as the non-violent Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia that took place in 1989 – others not so much.
Active, widespread protest is often used to voice opposition to an oppressive government. This has been seen recently in places such as Libya and Egypt.
While the overall response of Libyan and Egyptian citizens could be justified by the oppression and possible “crimes against humanity” from government leaders, the rioters in London cannot compare.
Despite a poor economic situation in the United Kingdom – and the citizens’ subsequent discontent – this isolated incident of possible police brutality is not widespread enough to justify a violent, large-scale protest.
It seems as if some people were itching for an excuse to cause destruction and they jumped at a bad opportunity.
This is similar to an occurrence in 1992, when there were riots in Los Angeles following the acquittal of police officers widely believed to have used excessive force in the arrest of Rodney King.
It would be foolhardy to assume everyone in the United Kingdom likes the way their government and police force is run, but there was no real social oppression from those in power going on.
This occurrence is certainly not something to be overlooked, and there should certainly be an investigation, legal penalties for those involved and other government-sanctioned action. But not a civilian riot.
This was just the rioters taking advantage of a situation and using as an excuse to be able to burn, loot and be violent simply because they could “get away with it” on grounds of protest. Around £100 million of damage was done in London to shops, homes and public transportation, including irreparable damage to historic structures.
Not only is this selfish, but inappropriate and disrespectful to the Duggan incident. People took advantage of a real tragedy for their own personal gain at the expense of other citizens and their property.