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Let England Shake In 2012
What the London riot really tell us about the modern UK – and why the issue isn’t as black and white as we are led believe.
Eamonn McCann, 06 Jan 2012
“It’s not post-structuralist/It’s not post-modernist/It’s not the end of history like they promised/It’s the new age of the fist”.
Raucous Glasgow revolutionary and folk singer-songwriter Alistair Hulett left us the anthem for the oncoming year.
I was asked by a current affairs weekly during the summer what I reckoned on the riots that had wild-fired across London and flared out across the land. Somebody thought I’d have an insight on account of where I come from. I told them that hatred of the cops had to have been a factor and that I ranged myself on the side of the rioters. I had an impression the sentiment fell strangely on their ears.
Everywhere in the world, young working-class people are hostile to the police. But nowhere is this acknowledged in the media mainstream.
My insight hadn’t derived from Derry but from days in the mid-‘60s living in south-east London and working in a gang as the only one not born with the Bow Bells ringing in my ears. Monday morning conversation frequently focused on newspaper accounts of Millwall fans’ involvement in violence at the weekend. It was taken for granted in our company that the fault will have lain with the police.
At away games, typically, fans were surrounded by cops as they stepped off the train and herded towards the ground, kicked on the ankles, elbowed in the ribs, taunted and provoked all the way. Dare any fan throw a shape to hit back, batons would be drawn, heads cracked and fans snatched at random charged with public order crimes. The rags next morning would demand no more namby-pamby tactics from the police. Nobody on the job spoke of police as anything other than “the filth”.
All that remains of this now in the memory of the mainstream is that “Millwall fans used to be notorious for violence.”
It was evident in 2011 that the cops across the water remain a law unto themselves, only more so. Students, trades unionists, tax campaigners and protest demonstrators of one sort and another are routinely herded into cordoned-off spaces without regard for civil rights or the rule of law, “kettled” for hours, taunted, threatened, assaulted. Anyone who raises a hand in response is liable to be roughed up and railroaded into prison by police perjury and the mendacity of magistrates and judges. Depend on it, too, the only complaint from the majority of the media will be that the cops should have moved in sooner and hit harder.