U.K. Lawmaker's Words Don't Help In Quelling Violence

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MP David Lammy's statement does nothing to appease an already volatile situation. He should have acknowledged the frustration and hopelessness in the community when they marched to the police station to demand answers to their questions.

[London Bridge Is Falling Down]

The violence that erupted in Tottenham, North London, on Saturday evening, after the fatal shooting of a local resident, Mark Duggan, by police officers on Thursday August 4, escalated.

It is reported that police officers attempted to arrest Duggan who had been travelling in a taxi at the time when exchange of fire broke out between the victim and police officers from Operation Trident, a unit that deals with crime in Black neighborhoods. It is thought that Duggan had been subject of a police investigation.

About 300 local residents marched to Tottenham Police Station to protest this fatal shooting and demand answers and justice for Duggan and his family. Local residents do not believe the story relayed by police officers that Duggan had fired at them.

A family friend of Duggan, who gave her name only as Nikki, 53, said the man's friends and relatives had organized the protest because "something has to be done" and the marchers wanted "justice for the family." Some of those involved lay in the road to make their point, she said.

"They're making their presence known because people are not happy," she added. "This guy was not violent. Yes, he was involved in things but he was not an aggressive person. He had never hurt anyone."

Initially the protest was peaceful and indeed it had been intended to be a peaceful vigil but very soon and without warning it turned into a full scale turmoil with angry demonstrators throwing petrol bombs, bottles, stones and eggs at the police. Three patrol cars, a bus, a supermarket and several buildings were soon set alight.

It would appear that local youths have used this opportunity to vent their simmering anger at the police. They say they are regularly stopped by the police for no apparent reason. They are victimized and generally harassed.


Several local residents have had a homeless night after their homes were burnt down throughout the night. Several people, including families with young children had to flee their homes in fear for their lives. Yesterday, it was still unclear if all residents were able to escape to safety. There is a real concern that some people may have been caught up in the ferocity of the fires.

Stuart Radose, said, "Things have been allowed to burn, there seemed to be no police presence at all. I don’t know how this happened, how this was allowed to happen. I am speechless, this is London, this is our home, not a war zone. Shops were brazenly looted and then burnt down."

The Labour Member of Parliament --the British legislature-- for Tottenham, David Lammy, released a statement on his website as follows: "The scenes currently taking place in our community are not representative of the vast majority of people in Tottenham. Those who remember the destructive conflicts of the past will be determined not to go back to them. We already have one grieving family in our community and further violence will not heal that pain. True justice can only follow a thorough investigation of the facts. The Tottenham community and Mark Duggan's family and friends need to understand what happened on Thursday evening when Mark lost his life. To understand those facts, we must have calm."

The late Bernie grant, an MP for Tottenham in the 1980s would have been at the scene and would not have simply written a statement. The feeling is that the current MP, Lammy, does not represent the people. He is not of the people.

Yesterday, Downing Street, Prime Minister David Cameron's office, issued a statement condemning the violence as utterly unacceptable.

Britain has bad memories from a previous upheaval 26 years ago and there are questions if any lessons were learned. In 1985, Broadwater Farm Estate was the epicentre of the one of the bloodiest riots in London and the first where gunshots were fired. That conflict was sparked off by the death of local resident Cynthia Jarrett who died of heart failure after four policemen burst into her home during a raid.

News of Jarrett’s death slowly began to filter through the estate and the community took to the streets to demand answers. Inevitably tensions flared between the residents and the police who swamped the estate using truncheons to bash their shields while chanting: "Niggers! Niggers! Niggers!" Residents responded by pelting the police with bottles and petrol bombs; cars were overturned and set alight as were shops and other buildings. Widespread looting ensued.

As battle raged on Broadwater Farm, Police Constable Blakelock was repeatedly stabbed and killed. A local man, Winston Silcott and two other men were framed for the murder in one of Britain’s most infamous miscarriages of justice. From the beginning of the marred investigations, it was clear that Silcott, who had often defended local youths from police harassment was their primary target.

Evidence was fabricated and confessions were forced from some local residents, including from children as young as nine years old, who had been held in solitary confinement for hours on end. This is what had formed the basis of the police’s murder case. Although there was no evidence on Silcott --not a speck of blood was found on any of Silcott’s clothes-- the Jury still returned a guilty verdict, with the Judge branding Silcott a "vicious and evil man" and sentenced him to serve at least 30 years in jail.

Four years after Silcott’s conviction, following a sustained campaign for justice, the case against the Tottenham Three collapsed at appeal. Forensic tests on police notebooks showed that pages had been inserted into accounts of interviews that police investigators had claimed were written contemporaneously.

London faces another crises today. Yesterday, the high street had been cordoned off while the police tried to gather evidence and continued to make arrests for offences ranging from affray, violent disorder, burglary, criminal damage and possibly arson.

At approximately 11.00 AM yesterday, MP David Lammy finally appeared at the scene to make a statement and answer a few questions. He said, a community that was already hurting has now had its heart ripped out by the previous night's "rioting" and said there may even be fatalities in the burned out building.

"The post office, shops, news agents, mobile phone shops, council building that deal with customer complaints, smashed to pieces by mindless, mindless people last night - many of whom are not from Tottenham and had come from afar into this community intent on causing violence," he said.

"What happened here raised huge questions and we need answers, but the response to that is not to loot, to rob," he added. "There are homeless people standing back there. We don't know if there are fatalities within some of those homes and flats which are now burned out. This is a disgrace."

His statement does nothing to appease an already volatile situation. David Lammy should have chosen his words carefully if his intention was to calm the situation down. He should have acknowledged the frustration and hopelessness in the community when they marched to the police station to demand answers to their questions. They stood for five hours, doing nothing, just waiting for answers from the police.

It is right that he should condemn the escalation of violence, the loss of livelihood and possible loss of lives but he should have also acknowledged the anger within the local community at the shooting down in cold blood of one of their own. This was someone’s son and family, someone’s lover and father. This was someone’s friend.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

Allimadi writes for The Black Star News from London.

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