London rioting: why?
Most news articles on these riots leave the spark that set the fire buried near the bottom, as if it didn't matter. The police shot and killed a 29 year old black man and the complaints authority is investigating; but the lines between which we must read are clear. The issue is a racist and heavy-handed police and the local reaction where ethnic minorities are concentrated.
London has a (proud?) history of working class rebellion to harsh government policies. The last great riots I remember being against Thatcher's poll tax in the 1980s, but there have been many other smaller scale spontaneous incidents or demonstrations that turn ugly and result in rioting. Such social combustion is almost unknown in this country and so we must observe this English phenomenon through the media and their images which do not answer our first question: why?
There has been little interest with the media in getting to the heart of this and even less now the rioting has spread and the question changes from why did the police shoot that guy in the first place to why are they still rioting. With a complaints authority investigation underway it must be tempting for the media to sideline that aspect and focus on the pictures of flames, destruction and violence.
A row has broken out between police and the body charged with investigating them over who let down the family of Mark Duggan by failing to keep them informed of what had happened to him.
The family of Duggan, shot dead by police on Thursday, said they were angered by the lack of information they received, and that their upset stoked tensions immediately before Saturday's riot in Tottenham.
The circumstances surrounding the death are being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Saturday's riots followed the family's long wait outside Tottenham police station to see a senior officer.
Cerfontyne pinned this error on the Met, saying the force waited too long before telling the IPCC the family wanted to see them. "I am also aware that Mr Duggan's family were unhappy at waiting at the police station for such a long time," her statement continued.
"The IPCC was contacted by the MPS [Metropolitan police service] at 8.30pm on Saturday evening. We were told that Mr Duggan's partner had been there and wanted answers to a variety of questions, but that she had now left."
The Met handled this poorly at the start by the looks of it and that is why it escalated from a family situation into a community situation. But without any witnesses to the shooting coming forward to the media only the Police involved really know how it went down.
The little we know about the circumstances are via the Police, so that is also prone to their spin. For example yesterday it was reported that a shot was also fired at Police during the incident, leaving one to believe that Duggan - or a criminal gang accomplice - had opened fire on the officers. But today a different story:
Doubts have emerged over whether Mark Duggan, whose death at the hands of police sparked the weekend's Tottenham riots, was killed during an exchange of fire .
The Guardian understands that initial ballistics tests on a bullet, found lodged in a police radio worn by an officer during Thursday's incident, suggested it was police issue – and therefore had not been fired by Duggan.
Initial reports from the IPCC were that during an apparent exchange of fire police officers from C019 fired two shots and Duggan died at the scene. The suggestion was that officers could have come under fire from a minicab carrying Duggan. Much of this assumption came from the fact that a bullet had lodged in a police radio worn by an officer at the scene – raising speculation he might have been fired at from the vehicle. A non-police issue handgun was also recovered at the scene where Duggan was shot dead in Ferry Road.
The latest developments come as one community organiser suggested the handgun recovered was found in a sock and therefore not ready for use. It is likely to fuel anger on the streets of Tottenham and elsewhere in London if it provides evidence that officers were not under attack at the time they opened fire on Duggan.
The IPCC said on Sunday: "We await further forensic analysis to enable us to have a fuller and more comprehensive account of what shots were discharged, the sequence of events and what exactly happened. In the meantime we would request people are patient while we seek to find answers to the questions raised by this incident."
The Guardian obviously has contacts in the Met or Coroner's office to have got that ballistics information.
The sad thing is the cause - the Duggan killing - will only receive a fraction of the time and money spent on the reviews, reports and investigations of what followed. It is almost certain the UK government will be more interested in how to contain rioting than how to prevent it happening by focusing on the cause.