[News] Racial Profiling As Key Factor In London Riots

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 11 12:25:57 EDT 2011

Darcus Howe Cites Racial Profiling As Key Factor In London Riots

Posted: 8/10/11 06:59 PM ET


The riots that broke out across England this week were the 
consequence of years of built-up resentment among Britain's young, 
mostly black, underclass, the Caribbean-British writer and activist 
Darcus Howe told The Huffington Post on Wednesday.

"It's an insurrection of a generation of poor, primarily, black 
people from the Caribbean and from Africa," said Howe, who became 
something of an Internet sensation on this side of the Atlantic after 
recent appearance on the BBC turned into a testy exchange over his 
claims that the authorities were failing to listen to the riots' 
underlying cause.

The police "do not have any sense of what informs the explosive 
character of what is happening here," Howe said, pointing his finger 
at the increasingly controversial practice of stopping and searching 
youth in working class neighborhoods.

The killing by police last week of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black 
man from the London neighborhood of Tottenham, has been widely 
credited with setting off the flood of outrage that led to the riots. 
(The police say that Duggan was armed, and suggest he may have fired 
first; an investigation is underway.)

"That was the catalyst, and residing in the catalyst is the cause," 
Howe said. "And the cause was the constant stopping and searching of 
young blacks."

The few emerging voices of young people who took to the streets in 
London -- or shared their common cause -- in recent days 
to much the same set of complaints.

"Why did people do this?" asked Yohanes Scarlett, a student who said 
he knew some of the rioters, 
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/9561057.stm>on the 
BBC show "Newsnight" Tuesday. "There's a lot of anger and aggression 
in the streets. There's many people out there who knew this was 
coming, who saw that this was coming, and have warned this was 
coming. Government, police ... they have not listened."

By and large, the response to the riots across British society has 
been outright rejection and condemnation, with the youth in the 
street branded wholesale as thugs and criminals.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron 
the press that "nothing was off the table" in the government's 
response to any future rioting, including the use of water cannons or 
rubber bullets.

"This continued violence is simply not acceptable, and it will be 
stopped," Cameron said. "We will not put up with this in our country. 
We will not allow a culture of fear to exist on our streets."

In a 
published Wednesday by the conservative newspaper The Sun, a third of 
respondents said they would welcome the use of live ammunition 
against the youth in the streets.

Howe told The Huffington Post that while he did not condone the 
rioting, he did not think the government's response had shown much 
indication that conditions would improve.

"They're all behaving like President Assad," he said, referring to 
the embattled Syrian leader who has lately confronted a popular 
uprising inside his country with tanks and mortar shells.

"What we found out recently is the prime minister and his ilk have no 
idea who their citizens are," he added. "Even the blacks among them 
do not know who they represent. There is a black member of parliament 
from Tottenham when the riots broke out, 
he said, 'These people who burned the place down are not from 
Tottemham; they came from elsewhere.' Nobody knows where Tottenham 
begins, and where it ends."

Howe, who was born in Trinidad and is 68 years old, has a long 
history of social-justice activism in England, and has become a 
familiar face to British television viewers on the subjects of race 
and urban discontent.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he was a leading figure of a movement of West 
Indian-born immigrants to the outskirts of London who deplored their 
treatment by the police and government officials.

"Since 1968 he's been a black radical, organizing street-level 
campaigns against police racism," said Robin Bunce, a politics 
professor at Cambridge University and author of a forthcoming 
biography on Howe.

Howe, Bunce said, was instrumental in organizing a 1981 demonstration 
in his neighborhood of Brixton, that was a near precursor to the now 
famous riots there -- but was not a participant in those riots.

"He was living in Brixton but not involved other than as a kind of 
commentator," Bunce said. "Darcus' big concern today is police 
stopping and searching black people, mainly black young men, and this 
is really the same thing that started the Brixton riots in 1981."

The youth of today, Howe said, are much more determined and 
disappointed than even his own generation, and they see in the 
present moment an opportunity to express their discontent.

"They are much more mature and they have greater expectations," Howe 
said. "[In the 1980s], we'd say, 'Well, we weren't born here, we must 
accept that.' But this is a generation who has this feeling, like 
instinctive animals, about who they are, and what they won't put up 
with, and that is what has brought them to the streets today."

"There is a sense of uprising, because the kids see it on the 
television," he added. "They see the Arab Spring. And once [the 
police] killed Mark Duggan, they felt, 'No. They've gone too far.'"

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