London riots

The police shot Mark Duggan in London, as they beat up Rodney King in Los Angeles.  Likely Mark Duggan needed killing, and it was instant justice, or possibly not. There is disagreement over who fired first.

Real violence, not astroturf mock violence, ensued.  There have been three days of rioting, looting, and racist assaults by blacks on whites over much of England, and the riots continue.

I think we have a better quality of looter and arsonist in the US, since in the US they waited for the investigation to complete.

Another thing they do not have in England is Korean snipers on rooftops with AK47s to clean the streets.  For lack of those snipers, the shops are burning.

The police are trying very hard to “lower tensions” and be “non threatening” which looked to me like cowardice and weakness, and that is the way it looked to the rioters.  On BBC video I saw a mass of cops wearing armor and carrying shields, and traffic jam of cop cars driving slowly past them.  A team of young black men carrying big rocks dashed in front of them, hurled rocks at cars, and raced back with dazzling speed and athleticism, almost as if they were dancing. The spin as each black hurled his rock, stopped and turned, was graceful and spectacular. Obviously they expected a mighty horde of cops to give chase, but nothing happened.  So they did it again.  And again.  The cops acted like potted palms.  If the cops wanted to be non threatening, and non provocative, they were succeeding.

When I looked at the Guardian’s riot blog a few minutes ago there were no incidents of police protecting a person or his property.  There was however one report of a private citizen, armed only with a knife, protecting a journalist and his property.

The Guardian journalist Jason Rodrigues reports:

I was forced to swerve away from them but crashed to the ground. Just as one of the thieves grabbed my bike from under me a red van raced screeched around the corner and smashed into a parked car. Two young men then got out and the man in passenger seat then put his hand in his pocket and threatened to pull a on knife on the thieves

Very British.  The lack of AK47s and rooftop snipers is apparent.

Here is a video of police being highly non threatening, non confrontational, and non provocative.

Observe, four unarmed, unarmored rioters confront eight cops armed and in full armor.  Some of the cops show fear.  Emboldened by this, a large horde abruptly materializes to support the four unarmed rioters.  Police rapidly become so non threatening, non confrontational, and non provocative that a cynic might think it looks remarkably as if they are running like rabbits. Compare and contrast with Jason Rodrigues’ account of two young men facing down a large gang with the threat of deadly force.

Suppose the armed and armored cops had stood their ground. Firstly, if they had shown willingness to stand their ground the mob would not have attacked. And if the mob had attacked, whosoever in the mob was frontmost, would have suffered injury or death, and pretty soon no one in the mob would want to be frontmost, so that no matter what the mob’s advantage in numbers, they would all be waiting for someone else to go first.

11 Responses to “London riots”

  1. Matt says:

    Just watch. I’m betting that exactly two people ever see the inside of a prison cell as a result of the events of these riots, and they’ll be the guys with the van who came to the rescue.

  2. jim says:

    A mob is incohesive, so can be faced down by defeating the leading edge.

    Had the cops taken out those four, which they could have done merely with batons and tasers, chances are the mob would have retreated.

    The two guys that rescued Jason Rodrigues might have been lynched also, but they figured chances were the mob would retreat. And it did.

    • Alrenous says:

      It can be faced down like that, but its risky. You have to overcome ‘it can’t happen to me’ optimism, which for the cops is an uphill battle.

      • Bill says:

        The mob did not charge until the police showed cowardice. But, of course, you are right above. The police know that, when push comes to shove, they may not do what is necessary to restore order. Reasoning backwards from that, it would then be foolish to do anything at all. And the British police have been conspicuously useless for long enough that they may now be positively attracting time-serving cowards to their ranks and repelling men. The cops retreated in a pretty formation, though, didn’t they.

        The city of London could save a lot of money in overtime by just not bothering to deploy the cops.

        • jim says:

          I am pretty sure that if EDL was rioting, the police would be allowed to do whatever was necessary to restore “order”.

          Googling EDL and riot I found

          “The EDL have a right to protest, yes, but we must not allow them to provoke us into violence. Unfortunately many young Asians are very angry at years of police stop and search and anti-terror laws, Islamophobia and continuing economic discrimination.”

          The news report makes no mention of “anti fascist” attacks on the EDL, yet proceeds to make excuses for such attacks. From which I suspect that what happened is that the police mysteriously failed to keep “anti facist” protestors from attacking the EDL protest, and then promptly proceeded to arrest EDL protestors for defending themselves.

        • Alrenous says:

          Ah, that’s true enough.

          The charge wasn’t triggered by the cowardice, though. They weren’t openly showing cowardice yet. It was merely a space thing. The police withdrew, which necessitated the probing mob pseudopod move forward, which then sucked the rest of the mob after it.

          That hydrodynamic tie is mostly invisible from the camera’s angle but would have been blindingly obvious to the cops. At least, when I assume what is obvious to me in retrospect is obvious to them is prospect, their acts align with my expectations. The problem is there’s no apparent trigger for the initial withdrawal. The cops just decided to give the mob more space. So the cops could manoeuvre? More likely, they felt the hydrodynamic pressure of that mob.

          Indeed, before I reviewed the video in response to your comment, their initial withdrawal was so non-surprising to me I missed its significance. I assumed they were taking up a line further down the street, trying to let the mob keep its personal space, but were interrupted when the mob gained momentum. However, on review I can’t see any sign that they ever intended to stop, such as a hesitation in the retreat or an acceleration when they suddenly realize they need to go further.

          So you’ve convinced me that they’re even worse cowards than Jim portrayed them as. They just up and decided to flee. The charging mob didn’t overrun them, it just made their retreat ragged. If they’d merely stood their ground, the mob would never have approached, just as they kept their distance from the fleeing line. Both sides know a small number of deaths would only galvanize the other side, and so neither wants to escalate.

          The flight only started out pretty. As soon as the mob gained momentum, the cops showed naked fear. The formation loosens and they keep looking to the rear – psychologically, showing their back to the enemy. Any competent sergeant would have dealt a thrashing for such shameful behaviour.

          In the end they appear to have merged with a second line of cops, which effectively spooked the mob…before they even merged. This is just sad all around, really. Apparently neither cop nor mob need be afraid of the other at all.

  3. Alrenous says:

    Not that I’m disagreeing that they’re running like rabbits…

    But from the cop’s position they could see the group of four’s backup. In that position, you have to kill a fair chunk of the mob before they’ll disperse. Mobs are dumb and slow to react – the cops didn’t have enough firepower to do more than make the rest angry. They also didn’t have enough to close ranks and cordon off the street. If they stood their ground, they would have gotten surrounded and likely lynched.

    They would have had to start with a reputation for ruthlessness, so that the mob didn’t start out bold. Fact is the mob thought the police wouldn’t fire, and they were right.

    So, all four would have had to die immediately, and the rest would have had to know in the back of their minds that that’s what they expected. Which means you’d have to hire non-coward cops, which is impossible because the main draw of the job is having legal authority to carry more weapons and use more force than a civilian. (Huh. Britain’s late insistence on not arming cops really was a great idea…)

    Another fact is that if the cops had shot at the Elite’s lapdogs, they would have gotten charged, or at least fired. It is de facto illegal for them to actually defend anyone’s property.

    A couple tear gas bombs would have been a good idea, though. The few deaths the police could cause would just repeat the Duggan impulse, mainly because the living rioters can’t actually feel the shots. They can feel tear gas. It was more of a cowardice duel than an actual contest of force, and even a little gas would have been way above the mob’s courage threshold.

    • Out of Sleep says:

      You are completely wrong in your second paragraph. Watch the video again. A single officer charges forward at one point. All the rioters immediately start scattering like cowards. As the policeman reaches the front of the formation, he realizes that no one has his back and that if he were to continue charging he would be on his own. One officer had the power to dominate many rioters — but not all.

      Imagine if the police had decided to advance in formation. The rioters would have scattered. Perhaps some of them would have thrown objects; but then, they threw things anyway, didn’t they? And the police clearly could have advanced in formation, given the proper orders. They certainly started retreating in formation, all at once.

      Yes, quelling a riot is a dangerous business. That’s why these are *riot police*.

      But I agree with the rest of your comment: expecting these *particular* police to stem the decades-long tide of British weakness is unrealistic to say the least. That nation has fallen a long way since the Battle of Rorke’s Drift.

  4. red says:

    I wonder what would happen if the EDL decided to quell the riots themselves? If they seceded they certainly would have more legitimacy than present UK government does.

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