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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 8/10/11

London Riots: A Symptom of the 'Burning' & 'Looting' of UK Public Services

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Riots have gripped London for the past four nights and, as communities attempt to clean up, there is increased tension and the possibility of more property damage.

On Monday night, a Sony warehouse was destroyed in a blazing fire. BBC News broadcast images, which would elicit a visceral reaction from anyone who saw the footage.  Flames and smoke billowed out of the warehouse as a broadcaster interviewed people on the violent hooliganism in London. For the most part, the underlying sociopolitical factors in the UK, which likely touched off the chain of events the world has witnessed over the past days, was not addressed. The conversation centers on restoring law and order.

News organizations reported UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who "abruptly" returned from his vacation in Italy, said after a meeting at Downing Street court processes will be "sped up to ensure swift justice for those involved in 'sickening scenes of people looting, vandalizing, thieving, robbing,' many of them apparently teenagers." Acting chief constable of the Metropolitan police, Tim Godwin, asserts, "We will make sure that the stuff that we have seen come off the back of this--which is pure criminality, opportunistic criminality--is dealt with firmly and robustly."

The sanctimoniousness of such statements is likely lost on most on the elites and those in the UK government. As Laurie Penny writes in a post on her blog Penny Red:

...In the scramble to comprehend the riots, every single commentator has opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence, as if it were in any doubt that arson, muggings and lootings are ugly occurrences. That much should be obvious to anyone who is watching Croydon burn down on the BBC right now. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, called the disorder 'mindless, mindless'. Nick Clegg denounced it as 'needless, opportunistic theft and violence'. Speaking from his Tuscan holiday villa, Prime Minister David Cameron - who has finally decided to return home to take charge - declared simply that the social unrest searing through the poorest boroughs in the country was "utterly unacceptable." The violence on the streets is being dismissed as 'pure criminality,' as the work of a 'violent minority', as 'opportunism.' This is madly insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest. Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. Tonight, in one of the greatest cities in the world, society is ripping itself apart...

What seems lost on those in power is their role in triggering the riots--how the UK coalition government's assault on the middle class, working class, students, school children, the working poor, the unemployed, the disabled and everyone else who does not count themselves as rich or super-rich ultimately led to this eruption of arson, muggings and looting.

Severe spending cuts for higher education, tuition subsidies and assistance for those attending English universities went into effect in December last year. The cuts may not have been carried out by people who broke the glass on storefronts in Brixton and Enfield but this state-sanctioned looting could easily be characterized as "opportunistic" criminal behavior. The government saw an opportunity to fix the economy without applying pressure to those responsible for the economic crisis and made the most vulnerable pay instead.

In the past year, there has been a state sanctioned thieving of funding for public services, such as housing assistance, disability assistance, community outreach programs and health care. There has been vandalism of government programs dear to those in the direst economic situations. And, if you ask those who are rioting, they would likely tell you they have been hit just as hard as anyone in the UK by the austerity measures that have been imposed on society.

UK Uncut, a group that formed in response to the push by the UK government to impose cuts, has done its best to educate UK citizens on true economic reality in the UK. If the government were to clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and the rich, an estimated -95bn a year could be put toward funding public services. Last year, banks in the UK paid out -7bn in bonuses. Four banks made -24bn in profit. If banks were made to pay for the economic crisis they created, that would go a long way toward preserving and growing the social safety net.

The UK government along with banks and corporations conspired to cut programs that have the capacity to prevent people from rioting in the streets, to keep people from feeling like all is hopeless, like society is stacked up against them and they have must act out to get someone to pay attention to their needs or go out and claim what they fear they will never be able to afford.

*Read the rest of the article at FDL's The Dissenter.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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