New Internationalist

VIDEO: London riots one year on

On the one-year anniversary of the riots that advanced across London and other English cities, a 15-minute documentary video Voices of the Unheard reflects on the poor community relations and distrust that led to them.

Video-maker Tatyana Guttmann Hancocks made the film as a way to understand what drove the violence that broke out in London last summer.

‘Seeing the riots take place was an emotional period,’ she said. ‘I felt the reasoning behind the riots portrayed in the media were not a true reflection for many people in Tottenham and Hackney.’

Summer 2011 saw the worst street violence in Britain for decades. Sparked by the police shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan on 4 August, riots erupted across London, broadcast on mobile phones and television screens.

The unrest was catching. Over the next four nights, areas of England including Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester saw widespread looting and destruction. Five people were left dead, hundreds more injured, shops and homes destroyed.

More than 4,000 people were arrested for participation and the government and judiciary were criticised for a knee-jerk reaction to the disturbances, as heavy prison sentences were handed out totalling more than 1,800 years.

Guttmann Hancocks, who was born and brought up in East London, says Voices of the Unheard was inspired by ‘a feeling of injustice and the poor treatment of Mark Duggan's family and some of today’s young people.’

In the video, she speaks to local people from Haringey and Hackney including community activists, and youth workers, as well as campaigner and journalist Darcus Howe. There is also comment from Pauline Pearce, the passionate resident dubbed the ‘Hackney Heroine’ for confronting a group of rioters.

They talk about the history and context of police brutality and harassment and social factors leading up to events. All seem to be in agreement that, despite the shocking nature of events that unfolded, there was more to the riots than solely mindless violence.

The interviewees also warn that a repeat of riots on the same scale may happen again. ‘Nothing has changed. Why wouldn’t there be riots in the future?’ says Stafford Scott, community activist.

New Internationalist coverage at the time:
Jody McIntyre: From Brixton to Tottenham, inequality lies at the heart of the riots
Charlie Harvey: Not the last time London will burn
Tom Ash: Infographic of Social deprivation in riot hotspots
Mari Marcel Thekaekara: To England, with sympathy and concern
Jody McIntyre: Our response to the riots is knee-jerk and oppressive

Slideshow photo by Greg Brummel, reproduced under a CC license

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