As I write, I can still smell the smoke and the helicopters buzzing atop. I live in Tottenham and have for fourteen years now. As I returned home on Saturday night, our bus was abuzz with worries about whether our partners and friends - whom we were returning to - were safe. We could see a police cordon and behind that, familiar buildings surrounded by flames with young men, faces covered, leading a stand-off.
Tottenham is one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. I live streets away from where eight-year-old Victoria Climbié died because of her abusive guardians. A few years ago, Ikea opened up at the edge of Tottenham, with a deep discount on the first day. It became a scene of a stabbing over sofas. A few years ago, my partner and I were beaten up, yards from my home by several thirteen year old boys and girls.
No doubt, once more, some commentators will come out blaming "deprivation and poverty" for these riots. I reject this view completely. I grew up in India, where there is real, abject poverty - families without homes, food, shoes. Anger about a fatal police shooting does not necessitate burning buses and looting shops. This view is also unfair to the many, many families in Tottenham and elsewhere, who live on a tiny income and never once think about going out and ruining our public streets. I just received a phone call from an elderly Jamaican lady, who misdialled her daughter's number and connected to me. All she cared about speaking to her daughter, making sure she was safe. She doesn't want to burn cars and shops to make a point.
The actions of this small, but significant group tarnishes the entire area and it shouldn't. My area of Tottenham is one of the most diverse in Europe, from Holocaust refugees to Eastern Europeans.
Every day, when I sit at my bus stop, overlooking the spot in Tottenham where those kids kicked and punched my partner to the ground, I know whose side I am on. Not on the side of those who think looting widescreen TV's from shops is a way to express a view, but on the side of the ordinary resident - the Turkish hairdresser, the takeaway owner, all of us who choose not to allow the rule of the mob to triumph over the rule of law.
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