A few weeks ago I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post called Maybe It's Because You're a Londoner - it was a bit controversial, to be honest - in it I discussed my shock at the rather indifferent reaction some Londoners had to a suicide on the Piccadilly line. I feel compelled to write today, not to defend, contradict or re-hash what I said, but rather to display the other side of London. A side that this morning has brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.
We've all been watching the rolling news reports on the violence, looting and arson that have spread across London (and other UK cities) in the past three days. I'm writing this on Tuesday, 9th August and from my window I can see smoke billowing from a warehouse in Enfield; its black smoke polluting our air like the degenerates polluting our country with their violence. I have no idea if the violence will continue; I still have no clear idea on what exactly the violence is for. I'm quite sure that the 9 year olds who are lobbing bricks don't know either. Lack of facilities, cuts in funding and tax increases have all been touted as potential excuses - sorry - reasons why these hooligans are strolling around Clapham on the criminal equivalent of a shopping spree, selecting their new 52 inch plasma TV, with all the urgency of the government returning from its summer hols. Like many of you I have wondered, aren't the parents of these people, these children in some cases, wondering where they are? Or, at the very least, wondering where the new blu-ray player has come from?
Watching footage of an injured boy being "helped" and then robbed by a group of rioters was enough to make my blood boil, but then slowly, over the course of the morning, this bubbling blood was replaced by a new warm feeling - I think we call it pride. I saw on Twitter how individuals, and then whole communities, are fighting back. They are armed not with broken bottles, stones or stolen goods, but with brooms, rubbish bags and defiance. I watched on YouTube how citizens are literally picking up the pieces of their broken streets, sweeping away the violence and the ignorance and responding in the best possible way - unity. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I watched the crowds of people helping to clean up the streets stand aside and applaud the police as they drove past. Last night the internet was alive with pleads to stay indoors, stay safe, don't take any risks; I'm sure the families and friends of the police officers, the firefighters and the paramedics wished that their wives, husbands and children were also indoors and safe - with them.
It seems that as a community we want to repay that favour and applause is only the tip of the iceberg. Our citizens will reclaim our streets; we will rise up, in our own peaceful way, against the thugs and the criminals who are trying to destroy homes and businesses - we will do so with dignity, we will do it together. And we will win.
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