BLAZE: A lone firefighter tackles a fire in Tottenham, north London
DAYS OF looting and rioting have set Britain’s race relations back at least 10 years, a leading equality campaigner has warned.
Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote (OBV) told The Voice that rioters who attacked, ransacked and burned shops across London and the UK’s major cities have only made things worse for themselves and the black community as a whole by their actions since last week.
With many community residents telling The Voice they expect a long summer of ongoing riots from black, Asian and white youths, Woolley said: “The initial protest in Tottenham was a peaceful one and asked legitimate questions. They were faced with another death at the hands of the police, with another set of shockingly conflicting reports of what happened. The hijacking of the initial protest in Tottenham will undoubtedly set race relations back possibly a decade.”
FEARS: Simon Woolley
Woolley, who is also a commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, added: “Politicians are not talking about racial injustice and deprivation. Because of the looting, the focus is on thuggery and theft. The fall-out from the looting will hand the police stronger powers not just to deal with the looting but for a long time afterwards. Sadly this focus I fear will target Black communities and individuals.”
Ethnic minority youngsters are already seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by police – and many have objected fiercely to this.
In fact, some campaigners told The Voice they knew of youngsters who had lashed out at police because of their anger over stop and search, deaths in custody and cuts to youth services.
“I’ve heard people saying they’ll continue to riot as long as the police keep killing our men,” one youngster said.
While condemning the looting and arson as “wanton criminality”, community campaigners such as Claudia Webbe, chair of the Trident Independent Advisory Group (IAG) said this was a good opportunity to consider challenges affecting young people.
“…There are historical tensions. The issues of generational unemployment, inequality and poverty still loom large,” said Webbe.
She said Duggan’s death “brings to the fore the community’s historical concerns around deaths in custody. In addition you also have huge areas of poverty living side by side with huge areas of wealth. The setting is also in the context of stop and search and the misuse of police power.”
However, despite the reasons, various people in the black community said they expect to or are experiencing racism as a result of the looting and rioting…
For the full story, pick up this week's copy of The Voice Newspaper out today (Aug 11)