The London School of Eonomics and the Guardian have released the results of a study that asked people involved in the riots across England this summer why they rioted. You can check it out here.
A lot of commentators think the report is worthless because it simply consists of criminals blaming the police for their own criminal activity. I can understand why readers might think this – but I also thiink these critics are wrong.
This study is important and interesting simply because it listened to the perpetrators for once instead of focusing on the victims. If we want to know why the rioters why they rioted, we have to ask them, not their victims. Their stated reasons/excuses may well be after-the-event self-justification, but if we poke about in the bullcrap we will find some important facts.
For one, “gangs” had little/nothing to do with the rioting. So we can see the lie in the government’s attempts to use the riots as evidence why anti-gang legislation is necessary.
The stop-and-search angle is also important. Let’s not forget that the vast majority of those stopped and searched by the police are not convicted of any crime uncovered by the searches. These police actions are, probably accurately, perceived by poor young people as harassment or even provocation.
Rather than looking at the report for excuses, let’s look for reasons. There’s nothing wrong in searching for the truth.
Worryingly, the report says there might be more riots to come. Apparently, four out of five participants in the summer unrest think there will be a repeat of the violence. This might be just the bravado of youth; then again, it could be a prediction straight from the horse’s mouth. It’s certainly something that deserves the attention. But so do the poverty and the biased policing that certainly helped fan the flames of August.