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The London Riots: From The Ashes, Hope Rises

August 17, 2011

A week after the worst riots in London and the UK for over 25 years, we’ve been able to breathe again. Just. It’s been a torrid week, where businesses and homes were torched, shops were looted and people were killed. Many people were swept along in the madness, as we found out on the rap sheet that followed. Not all the people facing a staycation at her majesty’s special hotel were feral youth. Some were graduates, some had jobs, one was an ambassador for the Olympics (not anymore, I bet) and one particularly silly little madam was reported to be the daughter of a millionaire. How nice of her to drop in on the underprivileged and play the rebel, knowing she can step away and leave those who can’t to try and salvage their already blighted area. The madness spread to Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham. It was in Birmingham that the first deaths occurred when three young men were run over while defending their area. A pensioner attacked in Ealing for trying to put out a fire died of his injuries a few days later.

Then the racists came out of the woodwork, falling over themselves to blame people with faces darker than milk, wilfully denying the fact that the multitude of different races involved showed it was a truly multicultural event. And British Historian Dr David Starkey became their poster boy after his appearance on BBC’s Newsnight on Friday. Yes, it’s been a sorry week for Blighty in general and London in particular.

But, as is often the case, out of great evil comes great good. The day after the worst night of rioting, organised through the now demonised social networks (because it was the networks and poor old Blackberry wot did it, innit), a movement was born from said networks where people went out on the streets with their brooms and cleaned up as a show of solidarity. Funds were set up for deserving causes including businesses that were razed to the ground and a Malaysian young man who had been in London for only one month, to be mugged by people who he thought were helping him to his feet as he was bleeding. Donations of food and clothing for those who had lost their homes were happening all over the place and a peace wall was set up in Peckham on the boarded up window of a Pound shop. On Monday, the people of Hackney had a tea party in the road that was worst affected and where Hackney Woman shot to fame for her plain speaking when challenging the rioters. One of the other heroes of the riots was the father of one of the young men killed in Birmingham. His name is Tariq Jahan and his calmness, strength and generosity in the face of an almighty grief took the sting out of what could’ve been a very nasty situation. One of the things he said, which punched me right in the gut was this: “Step forward if you want to lose your sons, otherwise calm down and go home.”

I was at Peckham on Sunday to witness the peace wall, full of post-it-notes with all the emotions you expect, including lots of (gentle) messages about God. The overall sense you got from it though, was pride and a determination that whatever happens, we’re in it together. And no politician in the land, with their spin-doctors, silly proclamations and empty rhetoric can manufacture that. It’s real, and it’s free.

The peace wall in Peckham, London

"I love Peckham" post-it-note. Peckham peace wall, London

"You're part of the solution" post-it-note Peckham peace wall, London

"You may have a free playstation" post-it-note. Peckham peace wall, London

You might have a free Playstation, but we still have our pride!

"I love Peckham Spanish" post-it-note. Peckham peace wall, London

"I grew up here" post-it-note. Peckham peace wall, London

"Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" post-it-note. Peckham peace wall, London

"You can take the goods" post-it-note. Peckham peace wall, London

"What you don't have" post-it-note peace wall, London

"David Cameron see this" post-it-note. Peace wall, London

"Death of common sense" post-it-note. Peckham peace wall, London

This is a result of the death of common sense which has been replaced with: I know my rights; I want it now; someone else is to blame; I'm a victim. Well I say, bring him back!

"You think you've seen poverty" post-it-note. Peckham peace wall, London

If you think you've seen poverty, go abroad and see starving people that don't behave this way!

"This wall makes me happy" post-it-note. Peckham peace wall, London

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9 comments

  1. Amazing pics of the Peckham Love Wall Pie. Apparently the council is going to save it and put it up in the local library!
    Its amazing the good will that is coming out, the RiotCleanUp pages on twitter and FB that have got people out supporting their local communities to clean up. And the latest – http://delootlondon.co.uk/, plus there are stories of the police being treated to cakes by local public!
    Plus who can forget the heartfelt plea from Tariq Jahan – I don’t know a single person who was not touched by his words. How many lives were saved by his words? It its more than any police/politician or the like could have achieved!

    However as you rightly pointed out – there has been plenty of ugliness in the wake of this too. The pathetic comments by David Starkey, the reaction of the government in dealing with all these awful crimes – today two young men went down for FOUR yes FOUR years for ‘inciting disorder’ on FB when a rapist typically gets less. Our flippin MPs who have stolen from us only get a slap on the back, return the thousands they have stolen and still get to keep their kushdie jobs!

    This country and GOVT has become insane!!! So little pockets of hope like the Peckham Love Wall are good for the soul.
    God help us all!


    • The wall I saw on Sunday was not the original. That is already in Peckham Library. This wall was put up by the staff of Poundstretcher because they were moved by the messages on the original piece of wood that boarded up their shattered store.

      Tariq Jahan for OBE. Not least because he was the decent face of Islam. The media would do well to concentrate more on people like him and less on people like that tool Anjem Choudary.

      If they can pass harsh sentence for these people, it should not be beyond them to do the same for the other instances you described. As long as I live and breathe, I will never understand how someone who kills a person due to reckless driving receives such paltry sentencing.

      Sometimes it seems the world is going to hell in a handcart, but we must hold on to the moments that remind us that actually, man is basically good. The various peace walls and acts of kindness in London and beyond through this awful time is proof of this.


  2. A wonderful post pie. The riots were absolutely awful, and we all felt utterly terrible to be living amongst people who could commit such atrocities. Seeing this wall of post-it-notes and scrap pieces of paper being put together to create an anti-riot mural, really makes me believe in the good of the world.

    It certainly was a riot clean-up, and we used social networks to communicate good out of the bad that erupted from them previously.


    • That’s right. The knee jerk calling for the banning of social networks, or at least temporarily disabling them if there was to be even a whiff of trouble, denying the decent majority the use of these tools, was a nonsense from start to finish. These people seem to forget that it was those same social networks that enabled such things as the riot clean up to occur. Things would not had worked quite as quickly if we relied on the quill pen and carrier pigeon.


  3. Was it all only last week? Another great piece of Pie and let’s hope the spirit of Peckham prevails far and wide.


    • Feels like forever ago, doesn’t it?

      I think if you’re living in the areas badly affected by that moment of madness, you’ll be reminded of it every day until the regeneration eventually falls into place. For the rest of us, we must try and keep that communal spirit and do whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen again. By that I mean transform the breeding grounds of despair and resentment that kicked it off in the first place and perhaps celebrate each other for what we are ahead of what we have. On the other side, it looks like the opportunistic looters are having their collars felt, so that one will sort itself out.


  4. Wow, I will never look at post its the same again but now quite the same as those individuals who actually lived the moment.

    What a great shot post.


    • Thank you! The people who wrote those notes did all the work. I just shared them.


  5. hey hey,
    Couldn’t find an email address but i think you have some great images and I was hoping to use some for a montage with your permission. I don’t want to impose on your blog but if you could drop me an email and I could give you more details! my email address: rkhatun@tutufoundationuk.org

    Thanks and keep up the great blog 🙂
    Rukiyah Khatun



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