August 15, 2011

London Riots

A look at what happened last week in the UK.

Justin: Right, Jess. Thousands of people have been arrested across England after days of violent riots.

It began more than a week ago. Young people in London started rioting and the violence spread across the country lasting for days. At least five people died. Many businesses were torched. Some shops had been around for generations, like this family furniture store, now a burnt shell. Other stores were looted or robbed.

“I don’t know why people do this.”

Justin: Many rioters were communicating with each other on Blackberry’s messenger service, because it can’t be traced like texting.  One message said, ‘Shops are going to get smashed up, so come get some free stuff.’ ‘We’re about to go hard in east London,’ another said.

The british prime minister blamed gangs for starting the riots. But no one can explain why this happened. Some people point at the high unemployment rate among young people. Others say it started when the police killed a black man and then refused to give his relatives information about the incident.

The English cities with the worst rioting have a history of tension. Whatever the exact spark or cause for these riots, it was like a match thrown on a gasoline-soaked house.

So far, 1,200 people have been arrested, mostly unemployed young men. British police raided homes of people suspected of looting, and loaded up police cars with evidence bags of allegedly stolen goods.

Back here in the United States, the city of Philadelphia was also cracking down on mobs of young people. City officials said young people were responsible for random attacks of violence and property damage.

“I mean, we’re talking about 14, 15, 16-year-old youngsters. They’re old enough to know right from wrong, and they know what they’re doing is wrong, and they’ll suffer the consequences.”

Justin: Philadelphia announced it was enforcing a 9 pm curfew for teenagers on the weekends. And it seems to have worked. There have been no more breakouts of violence. About fifty teens were arrested on Friday night for violating that curfew.

For now, both Philadelphia and Britain’s largest cities are calm. And in London, courts have been open all weekend to try and process all the arrests.


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