The recent riots in London were largely depicted by media as young Blacks rampaging through the northern section of the city, looting stores and vandalizing property as a stunned world looked on. And through the specific lens of the Black American perspective most believed the volatile situation was rooted solely in racism. But, many Black Londoners seem to have a variety of explanations and opinions about the 2011 London Riots.

“At the end of the day I understand why young people are acting like this. You’re looking at predominately young Black people carrying on, but they’ve been let down by the political system,” said one young Black Londoner who was not identified during a fascinating conversation, which was videotaped between several people in the Clapham district in South London.

The video, going viral on YouTube, shows a multicultural mix of Londoners sometimes heatedly debating the raucous and deadly events triggered by the death of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old Black man allegedly gunned down by the London Metropolitan Police Service on Aug. 4.

“The only people they’ve got to blame are themselves,” said another young Black Londoner, identified only as a manager of a Clapham store. “The opportunity is there to rise; you’ve got to take it.”

But the consensus of most in the video is the violence, that lasted from Aug. 6-10, had more to do with class than race. It’s a view native Londoners in America seem to share.

“It had nothing to do with race,” said 53-year old Kellet Lascaris, who left London eight years ago for Los Angeles and is a city employee. “I think it is definitely a class issue … the divide is becoming wider and it’s more in people’s faces. Media will always show you those who are doing well, those who aren’t doing so well and obviously those who aren’t doing so well want some of what those who are doing well have.”

“Many of them want to try to get there honestly … they’ve got to try to get themselves some type of education, try to get themselves work, try to lift themselves by their own bootstraps. But, it’s like many of them are feeling oppressed, they can’t get work they just can’t move forward,” Lascaris, who is in constant contact with family members still living in London, explained.

A 35-year-old woman, who asked not to be identified, said she moved to New York from North London, the site of the riots, almost one month ago for a job opportunity. She echoed the sentiments of many who argue that cuts in social programs, education and an ailing economy are at the root of the unrest in her birthplace. “They think the issues in London relate to our economy,” she said. “For the young generation of people the government is saying, `we’re not going to pay for your education anymore … we’re not going to guarantee work after you get your degree’ … the financial cuts, job cuts, benefits being cut, I think that’s the backdrop of what’s going on,” added the graduate of London Metropolitan University who is a television producer in New York.

What has received noticeably less attention was a peaceful march by about 200 people through North London to protest Duggan’s shooting and seek an explanation from police about why he was gunned down, but they received no official explanation.

What followed were the worst riots in London in two decades. Now, Blacks currently living in London and others who have moved to America are grasping for solutions to prevent another deadly uprising. “What the politicians have done from what I can see, they’ve … made a lot of cuts and they made them with relative ease without really thinking of the ramifications that they’ll have on communities, especially the youth,” Lascaris said.

“What I would like to see personally is just more thought, more sensitivity towards building good relationships between communities, local politicians, the police and everybody seeing from the same toll sheet as it were.”


Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor