So despite this being a blog about books I do not think I can be a blogger from Birmingham (or even just a blogger from the UK in general) without at least mentioning what has been going on over here during the past week. So it comes down to writing a post that is not about books, the first time I have done such a thing on this blog. Those of you who follow me on twitter may have noticed that my tweets recently have been going off my normal book topic too in order to talk about the riots.
In fact it was Twitter that first showed me what was going on in Birmingham. With pictures of police and smashed up shops appearing at least an hour before anything was mentioned on the news.
You can imagine the shock of seeing such images of your own city, added tot the fact that just half an hour before I had been in the city centre and everythings had been ‘normal’. Even today (when there has been no trouble for a few days) there are police all over the place, and so many boarded up shops it’s sad to see something like this. Some of the choices of shops seem so illogical too. I mean why smash up a betting shop? Or a newsagents? Why smash up a sandwich shop, whatever are you hoping to find. One of the most powerful videos was that of Cyber Candy being smashed up, another seemingly pointless place to smash up. Other places make more sense in that you could actually get something from them, clothes shops, phones shops, electrical shops mainly. Walking through town though I was surprised of the places that had been hit and I didn’t know about. Hat Man (a local business) was talked about a lot because it comes down much more to one person’s livelihood, but The Oasis is independent too, so why wasn’t that talked about?
There were certain advantages and disadvantages to following what was happening on Twitter. It was certainly getting news through quicker than the actual news but it wasn’t very accurate. It did seem pretty genuine at first but then the photos decreases and the rumours started, the Bull had been decapitated (not true, but there was a fake picture), Primark was on fire (again, not true), the children’s hospital had been attacked (not true, again, although rioters did go for the police station opposite). Generally was the worst night, there was a police station burnt down (luckily with no police inside) but nothing too serious. Birmingham though was where 3 men were run down who had been defending their community. Things seem to have been quieter after that, maybe people thought it had just gone too far by then.
So what sparked it? Yes, there was the factor of an innocent man being shot by police. I think that helped, along with the probably well known knowledge that the police are racist, but that suggests all the trouble was with ‘minorities’ but really it wasn’t. It is very easy to say that they were all greedy criminals, stupid, unemployed, poor, but really it wasn’t that. Plenty of unemployed yes, plenty poor. Buts lots of educated people too, and lots of employed people. I really think it wasn’t just about that one guy, I don’t think really it was just about racism. I don’t think it was about greed, or about lack of respect. I think a lot of people are angry at the government right now (and I’m count myself among them). Pensions are getting cut, services are getting cut, job’s aren’t secure, student fees have been raised. The economy could be much better, and people really don’t like the way the government are dealing with things. Something was bound to happen, most people won’t react like this but it’s difficult when your peaceful protects aren’t being noticed, how else can you make your voice heard? I’m not saying rioting is the answer. Far from it but I can see what people might be thinking.
- UK riots: The last 24 hours in pictures (mirror.co.uk)
- UK Riots: fear in the air in Birmingham as mobs roam streets (telegraph.co.uk)
- UK riots: Staring into ‘the abyss of anarchy’ (cnn.com)