why mark duggan

Posted on Friday, 12th August 2011 @ 12:37 PM by Text Size A | A | A

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The British riots may have been ignited by the police killing of a young black man, but Mark Duggan’s
death has become almost insignificant.

Why has this particular shooting moved youths and adults of all races to take up arms, to burn and loot? The victim of police overzealousness was no upstanding moral example, but an alleged drug dealer and gang member, the sort of pariah for whom society tends not to mourn, yet his death set England on fire.  Was there latent resentment against police and establishment, simmering anger which Duggan´s shooting, like a lit match pitched on kerosene, set ablaze?

In the first instance, the news reported a peaceful protest against the unwarranted shooting of a black man by police and their targeting of young black and Asian men in Britain. In the UK, the “war on terror” has given police almost unlimited stop and search powers, and dangerous leeway in the detention and questioning of suspects, and most of these are black, Asian, or poor. Basic constitutional rights have disappeared, principally for minorities. However, the Duggan protest quickly mushroomed into a wider rebellion, suggesting that blacks and/or Asians are not the only groups in Britain who identify with Mark Duggan.

The riots, argued afro Caribbean writer, activist Darcus Howe, could not be viewed solely as a reaction to a police killing; the unrest was an insurrection. Frustration with police bullying had spilled over, he said, but these riots are part of a greater global historical moment.  Fellow liberals agreed the violent protests are an eruption of general frustration over an international economic and political system which is enriching a few while impoverishing, alienating and punishing the majority.  They pointed to looters openly boasting on camera about victories in their battle against the wealthy, evidence that large pockets of Britons are disenchanted and in Mark Duggan, saw and grabbed an opportunity, not just to steal, but to
vent their rage.

Conservatives suggested that the riots were caused by a British justice system that is too lenient
toward criminals and by a culture of criminality, embedded in the minds of some Britons.  Perhaps so.  The tipping point of the revolt and the looting, hooliganism and blatant disrespect for police did at first blush; seem like identifiable elements of modern British reality.  This year´s protests in Spain and Portugal had been relatively peaceful. But conservatives forget the Greek riots of December 2008, when demonstrations over the police shooting of a 15-year-old student in Athens quickly became violent, spreading
to other Greek towns. Those riots were thought to be triggered by rising unemployment, the global crisis, frustration among youth and a growing mistrust of Greek politicians. Outside Greece, in 70 cities, protesters and rioters clashed with police in displays of solidarity.  Were their justice systems at fault, too?

Whether liberal or conservative, you´d have to be blind or naïve not to see that around the globe,
protests against the new world order and its crises are on the rise.  In Britain and in Europe, millions of
unemployed, often unemployable youths are losing faith in the future and respect for the present.  Prevailing is a sense of betrayal by a political system seen to be in the hands of the money men who have provoked the economic distress and who are conducting business as usual while emasculated governments shake their fists.  Widespread anger boils over the leniency of justice systems toward white-collar criminals who have unscathed, looted millions from blue-collar people and there is a feeling that for the faceless, heartless, gluttonous corporations and financial bodies, the world is a seamless market place, but
for the citizens residing within nation states, the world is ever more confining.

Life in the peripheral countries of Europe has altered drastically since mid-2008. Jobs are few and far between as are decent salaries; social security and health care are no more automatic rights of
citizenship; the banks have reclaimed thousands of homes, but forfeiting owners will be paying the mortgage for years to come. The middle class is now proletarianised and powerless.  Millions of young people no longer dream of a decent future and the man and the woman in the street realise they are expected to be content serving as acquiescent, homeless, low paid labour- if they can get work. Respect for financial institutions, governments, police forces and justice systems, is low to negligible.  London, Madrid, Athens, Lisbon are powder kegs-all you need to spark a riot is a Mark Duggan.


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