London riots: Eye-witness answers questions

Aug 09, 2011

London native Elizabeth Yemisi Adegoke chatted live from London, offering a first-hand account of the riots there. Adegoke answered questions about the riot, the atmosphere around it and more.

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Hey everyone, I'm Elizabeth, I live in Croydon a neighbourhood in South London, like many places we have been pretty badly affected by the riots.  I'll try to answer all your questions as best I can!

Do you see any similarities between these riots and the recent protests about the increases in higher education tuition? If this tumultuous atmosphere and general unease lasts for another few weeks, how do you think London universities will handle the situation?

I don't think so. The people rioting at the moment are doing so in an opportunistic way, they're not protesting  about anything, it's about greed and disruption. The first riot evolved out of a peaceful protest what has followed is completly unrelated, people are citing a breakdown in the relationship between communities and the police, but this is not about that. It's about lawlessness. Students were protesting, rightly or wrongly they had conviction about an issue, this is definitely not the same. No one worried about their personal safety with the student protests, no one was scared to go out, even when it got violent, it was nothing like this.

How are people coping with the excess fires throughout Britain?

 Firefighters are doing what they can, a lot have been out all day. If you see some of the images, a lot of the fires were out of control, but they seemed to have been contained for now.

I can't find a straight answer to this question anywhere.  Why are people rioting in London?

There isn't a straight answer. The first riot evolved out of  a peaceful protest over a man who was shot in Tottenham last Thursday. It has just grown from there, many are citing different reasons, some because of a breakdown between the police and communities, others blame cuts in youth provisions for fuelling youth anger. A lot of it seems to me like people exploiting weaknesses in the over stretched police force, they know they're vulnerable and are doing what they can to gain from it.

If you were a tourist, planning to visit the West End over the next few days while staying in Hammersmith, would you keep your plans in place? Thanks in advance. All the best to you during these troubling times.

 Thank you. I'll be  honest we are all hearing a lot of things to suggest that this is not over yet. It's a very volatile, everchanging  situation. Shops are closing early and main centres are being closed as a precaution.  We're not sure how long it will go on for. My advice would be to stay on top of the news as best you can and make a decision from there.  London really is a beautiful city, it's just a real shame what's happening now.

What role does race play in the riots? Is this a 'black issue' or something else?

This is a very tricky question. The first riots were concentrated in areas predominantly populated with ethnic minorities, but it has now spread further.   Also London is densly populated with ethnic minorities as opposed to other areas in the UK. so even if the media portrays it as "black people going crazy",  it's not the case, many people are involved. I don't think this is a "black issue", there are clearly some complex reasons behind it, even though greed and criminality play a large role, there is clearly a breakdown in the moral fabric of our society if people (young and old) believe that arson and the destruction of property will achieve anything but devastation. People are destroying their own communities without a thought , this is beyond just looting, people's livelihoods and in some cases their homes are being destroyed.

Do you believe the Police can handle the level of violence seen so far? And furthermore, would you say the rioters are simply not scared of them?

The police are doing what they can, but it's clear to me they can't handle the situation. They are over-stretched and over run.  The rioters know they have the upper hand, hence why so many loot openly without intervention from the police.  It seems like ther main aim is to contain the riots, but not to actually get involved. They're up against a lot though they're trying but it's not enough.

Are people hanging around the fire area during the day or do they seem to come suddenly together at night? I know there is a social networking component, but it seems like groups could be spotted beforehand. Is a curfew being considered?

It's a mixture of both. During the day the streets seem quite dead, then in the early afternoon crowds begin to appear, the trouble usually begins mid afternoon, then at night it escalates. A curfew is being spoken about but nothing is confirmed as of yet, the main problem being enforcement. There is a sort of "voluntary curfew" at the moment with parents being advised to keep their kids at home and shops closing early.

Since the police are overwhelmed, is there any discussion of bringing in any Military people (Army, National Guard, or whatever is accurate for the UK)?

It has been mentioned, a lot of people seem anxious about getting the army involved. It's more an issue about the government being willing. It would be the first time in a 100 years and doing so would force the government to admit the scale of the problem, something they seem keen to avoid. It could also lead to the situation worsening so the government are moving very slowly on this one.

Good afternoon Elizabeth, I want to ask which people or organization is specifically organizing these massive mobs. I read earlier that specific instances of looting had been organized via blackberry. Also, is there a particular ethnic or racial aspect to the rioting and looting? What do these people have in common with one-another?

Good Evening, No one really knows who is behind it all, some say gangs, but there is nothing concrete.  Blackberry's are in the frame for being a main tool of organisation but again there is nothing concrete. I answered a similar question about racial/ethnic aspects slightly earlier. Besides greed, I think these people clearly have a lack of respect for the country and their surroundings, some people are blaming tensions with the police and their tactics, others are just angry for the sake of it, and some believe or not are just enjoying it.

How much blame do people put on the government's austerity program? Is Mr. Cameron's likely to lose his post due to the riots?

I am not a fan of our current government but I object to people appropriating blame to the cuts, if that was the case we would all be rioting.  This is not a protest about cuts, this is lawlessness. I'm not happy that it took our PM three days to issue a statement regarding the riots or that it has escalated to this point. It remains to be seen if he'll keep his position, people are already comparing this government with the Tories of yesteryear (and that's not good). The way he handles this will be very telling.

Please ask these "poor, underpriviledged youths" how they afford Blackberries and the standard uniform for these riots....hoodies, jeans, and new sneakers.

Hahahahaha. Will do!

Do you think the police should start beating the snot out of rioters- especially looters and perpetrators of violence?

They need to do something but beating up rioters will lead to allsorts, however simply containing the crowds is not enough, they've said they may start using plastic bullets tonight and they've increased police presence from 6,000 to 16,000 after last nights insanity.

What's Londoners' reaction to the riots so far?

People are genuinely devastated, their scared, their angry. Communities are in ruins. People's livelihoods are gone, their homes. A family business in my area has been operating since 1867 ,and it's now a pile of ash.  I guess you could say in British fashion people are getting on with things. People are going to work, they're trying to clean up and help rebuild, but people are hurting. No one expected this.

Are people in the affected areas being displaced from their homes? Is there a need for shelters for residents?

Unfortunately some people's houses have been destroyed, but not to a great extent. No one has really mentioned shelters but people have started donating to those who have lost their homes.

I hope you, your home and your loved ones stay out of harms way. Stay safe.

Thanks for you wishes. I just hope our city gets back to how it should be!

Who are the supporters of the rioters, and what are they saying to defend the rioters' actions?

I haven't really heard of anyone supporting the current situation. Some sympathise with the anger of those involved, blaming tensions between youth and the police, cuts, lack of activities for young people, disenfranchisement, poverty etc.

In light of the horrific images of rioting unemployed and hopeless youth in Englands largest City, why should we in this country be willing to embrace the Tea Party's calls for more cuts in governmental support programs and extreme austerity measures which after all stands to mostly affect our own poor and working classes?

You shouldn't! I'm not going to say that these cuts are responsible for the riots but they have caused tension and a feeling of hopeless among many people in the UK. I'm not sure this would happen in the US, it could, but I think you would have a different approach to dealing with the situation, and under no circumstances should you embrace the Tea Party!

It's been great chatting to you all but I've got to run. Hope my answers have provided you with a decent insight! Take care :)

In This Chat
Elizabeth Yemisi Adegoke
Elizabeth Yemisi Adegoke is a 26-year-old documentary filmmaker who is from Canning Town, an area of East London, and who currently lives in Croydon, a town in South London. She is witnessing the riots first-hand. Adegoke's stance on the riots is unfavorable. She describes the riots as "opportunistic violence and criminality."
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