It’s hard to believe that the huge riots in Europe that were plastered all over the news happened now over a year ago. This was a huge story at the time, and for a while it looked like London had spiralled into an Anarchy that would spread around the rest of the country and affect even the rest of the continent. Let’s have a look at what actually happened and whether there’s anything to be learned from it…
The riots began on the 7th August 2011 simultaneously across multiple boroughs of London. During this time thousands hit the streets to partake in wonton violence, vandalism, rioting, looting and even arson and many businesses were forced to close for business as a result.
The violence started following a protest in Tottenham that was itself a reaction to the death of Mark Duggan – a man who had been shot by the police earlier that month. Duggan was suspected of possessing a handgun and of planning an attack, but there was a lot of confusion and controversy surrounding the incident. The protest was so large that police were dispatched to break it up which lead to a huge clash that saw the destruction of police vehicles and a lot of the surviving area. Looting then followed in the Tottenham Hale retail park, and the media quickly began covering the chaos. This media coverage, coupled presumably with general frustration at the economic crisis along with austerity cuts and a perceived corruption in the government and police force and unhelpful organization on Facebook and other social media sites, lead to similar scenes erupting in Brixton, Hackney, Peckham, Ealing, Croydon and East Ham.
On the 8th of August this then began to spread farther afield to other cities in England such as Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester etc. in what were known as ‘copycat riots’. This lead to some European countries such as Germany issuing travel advisories temporary advising against tourism, and even resulted in a football ‘friendly’ between Holland and England being held off.
But England wasn’t alone in the riots in 2011, as Greece faced riots only the following month that some described the largest danger to international stability for eighty years – when Nazism and Communism grew out of the Great Depression of that era. Like the London riots these were of course also a result of the hard economic times and unemployment, and under the terms of a 110 billion Euro bailout from the EU, Greece was committee to making large cuts in their public services, pensions and more and to deflate the economy.
For the time being Europe seems to be at peace and while the economy is far from repaired and the double dip recession continues to worsen, there seems to be a strong sense of national pride instilled back in Londoners at least following the Olympics. But these riots show just what can happen when a suffering economy causes normal people to lose faith in their elected governments. Riots and anarchy are not just a thing of the Middle East and developing countries, but something that Western civilizations are equally as prone to. It is more crucial than ever that European governments don’t take their eye off the ball, lest future riots spread across more of Europe, and possibly even lead to the destruction of the European Union.