The Riots A Year On: Has Anything Changed?

Last Thursday I went to Nottingham to interview young people involved in the riots that swept England this time last year. I’m creating a short film with Alex Farrow, for YouthPolicy.org, looking at what policies were recommended to deal with the problems that the riots threw up, and whether things have shown signs of improving.

Last year the riots made me realize how far removed I was from those involved. I did not see it it coming and I had no idea at the time why they were happening. I couldn’t really believe people would riot and loot out of pure greed and immorality, and this was a great opportunity to find out what people’s motives were.

Alex had a link with a youth worker in Nottingham called Darnell, who drove us round to visit young people that were either directly involved, or who had a strong opinion on the subject.

The two main problems that people talked about repeatedly were a lack of job opportunities and friction with the police. Both issues have stayed the same or got worse since then, in the experience of the people we spoke to. One 16 year old told us his life was ‘hell’. He’d just left school, had applied for a job and been laughed at. Already, at such a young age, he thought his life was hopeless. Over 50% of young black men in the UK are unemployed.

When we asked why they thought the riots happened, the most common answer was that it was retaliation against the police, who they have not only lost respect for, but feel a mounting anger towards. They described Mark Duggan’s death as the final straw in what they see as a litany of unpunished police brutality as well as harassment in the form of stop and search.

Darnell has sold his car to start building a youth centre in his local area in response to youth services being closed down since the recession. He said community and social workers who vulnerable people used to look to for support had lost their jobs and needed help themselves.

Recently a BBC documentary about the riots was blocked by a court order, for an undisclosed reason. We’ll be releasing the video and a blog on Tuesday. Let’s hope it doesn’t get censored!

 

 

 

 

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