Friday, August 12, 2011

London is burning? Far from it.


Photo by MattjHerring

I received quite a number of emails and messages from friends back home about the riots in London. “It’s horrible”, “people are looting every single shop they see”, “the city is burning”, “London is really unsafe and the riots are spreading” are some of the comments that I got.

Yes, there were a couple of rough days in the capital. In some neighbourhoods, streets had been dominated by the thugs, many of whom are teenagers. With little or no police presence, properties were destroyed, shops were looted, local businesses were ruined. Even in places where the police was present, they seemed to stand idly by while the looters made quick work the high street shops.

"As the dust settles,
tales of bravery and
solidarity began to emerge."

“London’s burning”, “Mobs rule as Police surrender streets” read the headlines. After three days of mayhem, the police finally showed up in force and their ranks swelled to 16,000 in the capital alone. The show of strength effectively stopped further rampage.

That came a bit too late as images of London burning were televised all round the world. A city on fire makes good headlines, the type that will sell newspapers. But I would hate to have people forever associate London with those images. That is not the London that I know and I believe I’m not the only one.

As the dust settles, tales of bravery and solidarity began to emerge. We hear of Pc (Police Constable) Gordon Murphy with his five colleagues charging at fifty hooligans and ended up protecting a retail park at Catford, Southeast London (read article), the Hackney West Indian lady who lashed out at the mob (read article), the #riotcleanup call on Twitter that gathered hundreds of volunteers marching out onto the streets with their brooms to pick up the pieces (read article) and staff at The Ledbury, a two Michelin star restaurant in Notting Hill, rushed out from their kitchen with rollings pins scaring away looters to protect their customers (read article). Wife had a chat with Marco from Saponara yesterday afternoon and he was telling her that he and some others have stayed behind for the night and stood guard outside the provision store beside his restaurant that some marauders were eyeing. And these are just some of the stories.

This is the London that Londoners know and come to love. London is burning? Far from it.

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