Diary of the London Riots

Want to hear what teenagers from London are telling us about the riots in their own words? Here’s a selection of quotes gathered over the last few weeks.

A week before the riots, July 31st 2011.

Young men and women react to the council’s choice to close eight local youth clubs.

‘There’s nothing to do now, we’re just out there getting up to no good. People are intimidated by us, there’s nothing to do. The youth club was somewhere we could all go and have fun. At least we had some place to go. You get me? Now look. We walk down the streets and we’re getting pulled over by police, like there’s nothing there for us’.
(Anon, Wood Green, North London)

‘Everyone knows what happens on the streets these days. People getting stabbed up, people getting robbed, people getting their house burgled. Bare stuff’s going on right now, bare stuff, its crazy bare’.
(Anon, Wood Green, North London)

‘When [the youth clubs] did close [the council] didn’t even let the young people know. It’s like, one day it was there and the next it was gone.
(Liz Chavez, London)

‘Postcode rules – if another person comes to their postcode, or they see other people in these areas that they believe shouldn’t be there, they want to ask them why they’re here and they might want to fight theme… Some gang members do go to the youth club and they are off the streets but it’s not a whole day thing so obviously there will be times when it shuts and they will be free to roam the streets I suppose. There’ll always be that. A lot of people they don’t have much money and some of them come from poorer backgrounds so they look to have cause trouble, have fun, maybe take stuff of other people cause they haven’t got things themselves. There’s always gonna be trouble makers but it’s keeping that number as low as it can be.’
(Eldred Taylor-Camara, London)

‘I’d say I’ve had a couple friends that’ve been stabbed and one that’s been shot. Not severely thank god… knife crime, you get a lot of gun crime, a lot of stuff like that over nothing major. ’

(Zephaniah Thompson, London)

‘If your in a gang you’ve got that security around you. Like, you’ve got your friends around you to protect you, to back you up. As more gangs turn up it becomes more dangerous for people who aren’t in gangs.’
(David Asante, London)

‘The streets in London are rough, you got a lot of knife crime and all that… When you shut down youth centers it cuts kids roots off, their links so they don’t really have anywhere to go… [When school holiday’s start] I think it’s gonna be swarmin’, I think people are gonna be trying to find stuff to do, people are gonna want to get jobs and that’s gonna be tough. You know there’s gonna be riots, there will be riots, they’ll be riots. ’
(Chavez Campbell, London)

excerpts from ‘Haringey youth club closures: ‘ There’ll be riots’ via Guardian

DAY 1: August 6th 2011

Groups gather in London. (Images: The Denver Post and Alan Taylor at The Atlantic)

Rioters set fire to barricades. (Image: Zimbio.com)

Burning shop and car, Croydon, London and Birmingham. (Images: The Denver Post and Jeff Mitchell, Getty Images)

Scorched Buildings, London. (Images: The Guardian and The Denver Post)

DAY 2: August 7th 2011

‘London’s Riots! wow my city’s gone mad! You can’t blame them though teenagers in London are just FED UP!’

(Sabrina-Ann, 16. London. via twitter)

People—young and old—helped with the clean up. It continued throughout rioting period and attracted a diverse section of the community. The boys in this picture are quoted as saying:
‘Some [people helping clean up] live on council estates, some in expensive areas, but they were all here making new friends and looking to the future’.

Trending hashtags on Twitter #londonriots or #riotcleanup (Images: imgur and BBC)

DAY 3: August 8th 2011.

Images from three of the major newspapers in the UK. The front cover picture they all used has become one of the defining images of the 2011 riots.

10pm, Clapham Junction, South London. Local resident records a conversation with a young female looter at an electronic shop.

Looter: ‘Are you a journalist, Are you a journalist?’
Resident: ‘No, I live around here and I’m astounded at what your doing.’
Looter: ‘Well we’re getting our taxes back.’
Resident: ‘You’re getting your taxes back, what do you mean by that?’
Looter: ‘Well obviously we pay taxes, init. We’re getting them back.’

Damage to a shop in Croydon and damaged cash machine Birmingham (Images: The Telegraph)

SynGatesLover, London and her thirteen-year-old sister give their opinion of what happened in London via you their YouTube channel. She even sings a tribute song!

DAY 5: August 9th 2011

‘Spread the word now, everyone going to oxford circus tonight for a riot at 8pm, meet at JD’
Text message received by 16 year old in Brixton. (via Reuters)
Crowds and police from above, London. (Images: danielfinbar, flickr)

‘WHOAH … been out the loop all day, to all the people of the UK I hope you are ok my prayers go out to you and the amazing people there’
(Justin Bieber, via Twitter)

The reaction of a young man in Tottenham when he was asked if rioting really achieved anything (via Al Jazeera) :

‘Yes …You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you? Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night, a bit of rioting and looting and look around you [the reporter and the young man are surrounded by reporters, cameras, and journalists all trying to get a story]’
(Anon, London)

Rioters in Hackney being interviewed.

A Sky News reporter interviews a group of male teenagers in Manchester after riots had begun to spread across the country—


Reporter: ‘Can I ask you first how old you are?’
Young Man 1: ‘I’m fifteen.’
Young man 2: ‘And I’m seventeen.’
Reporter: ‘Why are you in the city centre after you’ve been told not to come out?’
Young Man: ‘We’ve been out for the day in Blackpool, we got the train to Deansgate
and as soon as we came out of the train we heard chanting init. And we seen everyone runnin’ up the streets like, and we got stuck right in the middle of it. We got stuck.’
Reporter: ‘But why don’t you go home, why are you still here?’
Young Man: ‘Cause everywhere we try and go the police push us away and tell us to go back.’
– – –
Young Man 3: ‘To piss the police off.’
Reporter: ‘Why do you want to anger the police?’
Young Man 3: ‘You don’t know what the police are like bro, I just can’t, I can’t explain it.’
Reporter: ‘Can you try? What’s made you angry?’
Young Man 3: ‘I come out for money and to anger the police. This is our pay back cause they can’t do nothin’ to us today. The police can’t do nothin’. It’s a right to freedom act, do what you like today mate.’

Youths walk past a burning car in London (Image: The Guardian)

Reporter for the BBC talks to two female teenage Looters in Croydon, South London:
Reporter: ‘So you’re drinking a bottle of rose wine, have you been drinking all night?’
Looters: ‘Yeah.’
Reporter: ‘How old are you girls?’
Looters: ‘eigh-een, well nearly eigh-een.’
Reporter: ‘Do you go to school or college?’
Looters: ‘Nah, Work’
– – –
Reporter: ‘How do you know where to go next?’
Looters: ‘Blackberry broadcast.’
– – –
Reporter: ‘Why are you targeting local people, your own people?’
Looters: ‘Cause it’s the rich people, it’s the rich people that’ve got businesses. And that’s why all of this has happened, because of the rich people.we’re just showing the rich people we can do what we want.’

Young supporters of the riots explain why they back the looting in Croydon, London:

‘No one’s got no money around here so everyone’s trying to make as much as they can while they can. Obviously [people who say we’re thieves] have got a lot easier lives than other people around here—some people have got absolutely nothing. [The destruction] is just consequences that happen when everyone teams together. It’s a very hostile area around here so as soon as everyone starts feeling that atmosphere, it’s kicking off, everyone wanted a bit of everyone. I don’t think that’s justified but everyone around here is animals you know what I mean? This ain’t the end of it, I reckon it’s going to go on for at least another week, people now see the police can’t control us and it’s just going to carry on and on.’

Click to listen to audio recording of the above interview.

Note left by London rioters and another by residents of Peckham. (Images: The Telegraph and Flickr)

‘We are fed up, obviously. We get searched and pulled over for nothing; it’s our kind of way of rebelling. It’s not an excuse but that’s what we know, we’re broke, we wake up and this is our way to get a bit of money. Obviously other people, stuck-up people, don’t see it our way.’

DAY 5: August 10, 2011 Rioting dying down.

A young man is detained by police, London. (Image: The Guardian) A young girl is detained outside an electronic shop in Brixton. (Image: Dan Kitwood/Getty images) A young injured man is treated by ambulance staff after being arrested for looting an electronic shop. (Images: The Atlantic, AP photo, Simon Dawson)

Teenagers in Manchester responding to a reporters asking: ‘Why have you been
stealing all this stuff?’

Youth 1: ‘Why would you pass up the opportunity to get some free stuff that’s worth, like, loads of money? …Anyway its not about that, its about the government, loads of kids don’t go to college no more cause they don’t get paid init. I’m not really bothered, ill keep doing this everyday until I get caught… Nothin’s gonna happen to me, I might get grounded or shouted at but I’ll live with that. And what’re they [the police] gonna do to me, the prisons are overcrowded anyway. What they gonna do, give me an ASBO [Anti Social Behavioural Order]?!’

Youth 2: ‘I seen kids here today younger than me, little girls younger than me runnin’ in shops and that, and obviously that’s wrong cause little kids shouldn’t be doing it like …I mean, its not right for anyone to be doin it …I’m just doin it cause everyone else is doin’ it’

Youth 3: ‘I’ve come for the money… The police nick you for stupid things. This is our payback. They can’t do nothing to us today.’

Youth 4: ‘People are just taking out their anger (with the authorities). It is wrong but they’re just trying to make money because they can’t get to college and they just think ‘Why not make quick money?”

quotes 1, 2 via BBC  quotes 3, 4 via Yahoo

Young men being interviewed in the streets of London.

THE AFTERMATH: August 11th, 12th , 13th, 14th, 15th 2011

A post-it message board set up by local theatre company in Peckham. It asks residents why they love Peckham (Image: The Guardian)

Two Young men and a woman pass boarded up shops on Waltamstow High St, London. (Images: tomb land, Flickr Commons).

And now?

Police are releasing cctv footage of suspects and bringing them to trial. Clockwise from Left: 18-year-old Ricky Gemmell, Manchester, sentence: 16 weeks youth custody for section 4 public order offense. 22-year-old Tom Skinkis, Manchester, sentenced: 4 months for section 4 public order offense. 42-year-old Paul Obonyano, Manchester, sentence: 14 weeks jail for assaulting a police officer and public order offense. 12-year-old, Anon, who stole a bottle of wine from Sainsburys in Manchester, sentence unknown. (Images: The Guardian, The Telegraph)

Youths attend the Methodist church vigil ‘not in our name’ in response to riots. (Image: The Guardian)