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A boarded up window of a discount store in Peckham carries notes of peace on August 10, 2011 in London, England.
The four-day riots in London have finally subsided, but the ire raised in those affected is still strong. Residential buildings and businesses both were vandalized, broken into, looted and set on fire. Meanwhile, London Mayor Boris Johnson was on vacation while parts of the city burned. The random nature of the crimes and the varying locations lead some Londoners to label the rioters as anarchists, bound to no social, geographical or political ideology, but simply bent on prolonging destruction. However, the rioters did use technology via social networking sites to target locations for looting. Some on the sidelines are citing austerity measures as the inciting incident for the outrage, as cuts have been made to education, communities and social assistance. These measures, when paired with London’s economic disparity of wealthy and low-income neighborhoods side by side, fed upon an already incendiary, rebellious mindset in London’s youth. Are these rioters just hooligans, with no political motive? Are they responding to governmental policy changes? What can be done now to clean up the city and prevent the riots from reemerging?
Harriet Sergeant, Fellow of the Centre for Policy Studies, Also an author and journalist.
Will Straw, Associate Director, Institute for Public Policy Research