As the flames die down from the riots of last week, the backlash has begun, already moving swiftly to not only punish but humiliate and ruin the lives of those involved – and those who weren’t.
A few of the sentences that have come up as of late include:
- Ursula Nevin, a Manchester mother of two imprisoned for five months after accepting a single pair of shorts looted by someone else during the riots. Following her conviction, Greater Manchester Police posted a comment on Twitter – later removed after complaints – openly gloating about the sentence. A campaign has already been set up demanding her release.
- A family in Wandsworth faces eviction from their home due to one member of the family being arrested. Eviction proceedings have begun before the family member in question has even been convicted. David Cameron supports the move, stating quite bluntly that:
“I think for too long we have taken too soft an attitude to people who loot and pillage their own community. If you do that you should lose your right to housing at a subsidised rate…Obviously that will mean they will have to be housed somewhere else and they will have to find housing in the private sector and that will be tougher for them. But they should have thought about that before they started burgling.”
Councils elsewhere in the country are said to be considering similar moves, with Birmingham councillor John Lines describing those involved as “scum of the earth”. Meanwhile an online petition demanding that those convicted as part of the riots lose their benefits has so far reached over 200,000 signatures.
A demonstration against the evictions has been called for Thursday 18th August outside the home of the leader of Wandsworth council, and an internet petition has been set up in opposition to the practice.
- A student in Borough has been jailed for six months for stealing a £3.50 case of water from a branch of Lidl. The judge, in a quite startling move, claimed that the student’s remorse and lack of criminal record had led him to hand down such a “lenient” sentence:
The judge said: “The burglary of commercial premises in circumstances such as this where substantial and wholesale public disorder has taken place is in effect what is commonly called looting.”He said Robinson’s previous good character and early plea of guilty to a non-dwelling burglary, as well as the low value of goods stolen, the fact he was in education, and his remorse, were in his favour.These meant he would not be sending the looter to the Crown Court where he would face a possible higher sentence.
- A family of four in Manchester faces eviction after their twelve year old son was photographed taking a bottle of wine from Sainsburys in the city centre. The boy has already been handed a nine month referral older and the mother issued with a fine.
These are just a few examples, with more cropping up by the day. These sentences are malicious, vindictive collective punishment, designed to humiliate and make examples of those involved. The use of eviction from council housing, the threat of losing benefits, the relentless demonisation, racism and dire warnings of a “feral underclass” as a threat to the rest of society – these things have little to do with “justice”, even in the deeply flawed and contradictory sense used by the state. They amount to little more than a renewed attack on those who have been attacked for decades by successive governments and left at the bottom of society to rot. That this would eventually lead to scenes such as those seen last week is, if not inevitable, hardly surprising.
Our compassion goes out to those who have been injured, made homeless and lost friends and family through these riots. Yet these measures offer little but the guarantee that such events will happen again. And again.
Following recent violence at demonstrations – most notably the student demonstrations late last year and the March for the Alternative in March – campaigns were set up up and down the country to support those being victimised, including York’s own campaign to Free Frank Fernie (Facebook group, York Anarchists coverage). At a time like this, with families being thrown out of their homes, young people having their futures ruined and attacks coming from across the political spectrum, it is vital that we show the same solidarity to those now facing the full force of the legal, political and media establishments.
Demonstrations and support campaigns – such as those described above – are already taking place, while in London, a meeting has been called to set up a branch of the Anarchist Black Cross. Similar initiatives are likely to take place elsewhere and we encourage all those who are supportive to get involved.
Love, rage and solidarity,
– York Anarchists